MDCH Finalizes Two Public Health Assessments for the Torch Lake Superfund Site

Contact: Angela Minicuci (517) 241-2112

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 2, 2013

LANSING - The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) has finalized two Public Health Assessment reports for the Torch Lake Superfund site and surrounding areas in the Upper Peninsula, specifically Houghton and Keweenaw counties. The reports contain responses to comments received during the summer 2012 public comment period.

The Public Health Assessment for "Physical Hazards in the Torch Lake Superfund Site and Surrounding Area" describes the physical hazards present from former copper mining activities. The report concluded that many physical hazards are present at places where former copper mining activities occurred. MDCH recommends that in order to make public safety a top priority, access to these places should be restricted or the hazards should be removed. Local units of government are responsible for enforcing any ordinances or codes that require property owners to address physical hazards.

The Public Health Assessment for "Evaluation of Municipal and Residential Drinking Water around Torch Lake" looked at potential chemical exposure from municipal and private drinking water. This report found that municipal water is safe and meets applicable standards and regulations. There is not enough information on possible chemical levels in private wells installed or screened in stampsand. Groundwater quality is highly variable in the Western Upper Peninsula. Some groundwater sources may have unhealthy levels of chemicals not related to the stampsands, such as fluoride and uranium. If private residential well owners have any concerns about their well water quality, they should have their water tested. The Western Upper Peninsula Health Department (WUPHD) can recommend tests for well water.

The Public Health Assessment reports can be seen at www.michigan.gov/mdch-toxics, under "Health Assessments and Related Documents." Copies also are available at the Lake Linden-Hubbell Public School Library located at 601 Calumet Street in Lake Linden, and the Portage Lake District Library at 58 Huron St. in Houghton.

The Department's Division of Environmental Health conducted the Public Health Assessments under a cooperative agreement with the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Information about the human health effects of exposure to environmental contaminants can be found on the ATSDR website at www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaq.html.

# # #