SOBAC PETITIONS FOR SOUTH COUNTY HEALTH ASSESSMENT-Lisa Marzilli
According to EPC and EPA data, the air quality in Hillsborough County meets state & federal standards. Yet in 2003, a report by the American Lung Association stated that 16 out of 21 Florida counties did NOT meet Clean Air standards. And Hillsborough was rated one of the worst of the 16.
Driven by numerous health complaints by residents living near TECOÃ¢â¬â¢s coal-burning power plant in Apollo Beach, the environmental group Save Our Bay, Air & Canals or SOBAC petitioned the Hillsborough County Health Dept. to conduct a respiratory health survey of the south county area. Last Thursday, Health Dept. officials and representatives from the Environmental Protection Commission attended a public meeting in Apollo Beach to discuss the request.
Leroy Shelton is head of the Ã¢â¬ÅairÃ¢â¬? monitoring division at the EPC. Barely into his presentation he was asked to explain the difference in the air quality grades that Hillsborough county received from the EPA and the ALAÃ¢â¬Â¦(o.qÃ¢â¬Â¦Ã¢â¬?get on with itÃ¢â¬?)
Shelton went on to describe the kind of machinery used to monitor the air in Hillsborough county. He explained that a PM 10 monitor Ã¢â¬â which measures larger particles - was placed at Apollo Beach elementary in March of 2002. However, it is the finer 2.5-micron particles that pose the greater risk to human health because they are inhaled through the nose & mouth and then can lodge deep in lung tissue. And itÃ¢â¬â¢s those emissions that residents are worried about and want measured in the south county area. Sheldon said there are only (2) PM 2.5 machines in the whole state of Florida and that their location is dictated by the EPA in Atlanta based on demographics. Some residents asked why one of the PM 2.5 machines could not be moved to Apollo Beach. (o.qÃ¢â¬Â¦Ã¢â¬?they would tell usÃ¢â¬?)
Tempers flared as another resident questioned the effectiveness of placing a monitoring device 25 miles away from the source of the emissions. (o.q...Ã¢â¬?our air monitoringÃ¢â¬?)
At one point, Apollo Beach resident Bob Bettis apologized for the obvious frustration of the group. (o.q.Ã¢â¬Â¦Ã¢â¬?I understandÃ¢â¬?)
Cindy Morris is with the Hillsborough county health department. She began by saying that the all the data so far indicates that TECO is in compliance with state and county standards. She also explained that the local health department does not have the resources to conduct health assessments and told residents they need to petition the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry or ATSDR in Atlanta. Morris sited the recent Coronet case as an example (o.qÃ¢â¬Â¦Ã¢â¬?how that startedÃ¢â¬?) At the end of the meeting one resident asked each agency to one thing. He asked the health department to compare air samples at the 3 local elementary, middle and high schools to those in an area far from the power plant. And from the EPC he asked for a promise of legal action against TECOÃ¢â¬Â¦(o.qÃ¢â¬Â¦Ã¢â¬?deeply troubledÃ¢â¬?) The next step will be for residents to petition the ATSDR who will then assemble a team of environmental scientists, physicians and toxicologists. After a site visit, the team will present their findings to a petitioning committee who will decide whether or not a public health assessment is warranted.