Chesterton Tribune


Group wants EPA to study Town of Pines radiation levels

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TOWN OF PINES, Ind. (AP) — Concerns about radiation in a northwestern Indiana community are sparking calls for an investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission Environmental Management Policy Committee says it wants the EPA to look into radiation levels in The Pines after two members of an environmental group said they found levels of radiation that were higher than the natural “background levels.”

“There’s something that’s not normal,” said Larry Jensen, a former EPA employee and physicist with a master’s degree in radiation and public health.

Jensen and Paul Kysel of PINES — People in Need of Environmental Safety — presented the planning commission this month with results of an independent radiation study he performed in 2009 using a handheld meter, The Times reported. The study focused on the streets in The Pines, which were built using fly ash -- a byproduct of burning coal for fuel -- as fill.

Jensen and Kysel said they asked the EPA to conduct its own study to dispute or confirm their findings, but the agency declined.

“We’re asking some agency to come out, verify our data and do lab analysis we can’t afford and determine what health hazards may exist,” Jensen said.

Eugene Jablonowski, health physicist for the U.S. EPA, said the methodology used by Jensen’s study doesn’t conform to current EPA standards and that the agency doesn’t see any need for further review.

Charlotte Read, a longtime environmental activist in the area, is urging the NIRPC environmental committee to request a formal EPA study. The panel will meet Dec. 13 to consider the issue.

“Everyone has basically ignored them for years,” Read said. “It’s just a story of a small group of people who care, did their own study, raised a lot of money,” Read said. “It’s time to take the next step. This community has suffered long enough.”

Some said they are concerned about possible costs.

“For us to make a recommendation for the EPA to do something, we have to take that very seriously,” said Kay Nelson, environmental director for the Northwest Indiana Forum.

“I know our municipalities spend millions of dollars to do compliance work. You want to send a letter to EPA to say spend an extra $500,000 to do this work?”

Jensen said he isn’t aware of any radiation-related health problems suffered by the town’s 780 residents but worries about problems down the road.

“It’s more in the level where you have long-term consequences,” Jensen said.

“Some of the levels were over the levels where the EPA would excavate and take things away. The potential is there but the data is not there to make that determination."




Posted 12/7/2012