DOH study finds potential for short-term health risk around Keystone Landfill

DOH study finds potential for short-term health risk around Keystone Landfill

"Why is the landfill open if kids can get sick?" asked Dennis Dempsy, a boy from South Abington.

Monday night Pennsylvania Department of Health officials presented their findings on a study of the air quality surrounding Keystone Sanitary Landfill in Dunmore and Throop boroughs.

During a three month health risk study they found some spikes in chemical emissions above standards that may cause short term health effects like nose, throat, and eye irritation.

They said these spikes may be outliers and not the norm for surrounding air.

A twelfth grader from Old Forge questioned the board of officials, citing what she'd learned about outliers from a high school stats class.

"Anytime a kid can't go outside cause they could get a nosebleed or their throat could hurt, that's when an outlier in data means something."

Borough residents have expressed concerns over air quality for years.

In February 2015 the PA DOH received a request to conduct an environmental health study, with their first assessment letter being issued in October of that year.

Their most recent report came in December of 2017.

The DOH said the effects discovered may just be short-term.

"They're transitory, so what that means is that once the odor is gone or to move away from that site, those symptoms should go away," said one DOH official.

The DOH said long-term exposure to the surrounding air isn't expected to cause more harmful illnesses such as cancer.

But people questioned how accurate the study could be if it only took a three-month sample, and monitored air that was not in the direction of the prevailing winds.

"There's no chronic study here. This is a very, extremely limited study that was not modeled on a fifty-year landfill. What's the relevancy, why are you even here?" asked one woman.

"They provided the community with some data about what chemicals and compounds and air quality you're currently experiencing and what health risks we can estimate based on those compounds found," responded Dr. Sharon Watkins, with the PA Department of Health,

Health officials also say it's not conclusive of what could happen in the future, and if the landfill moves forward with expansion.

"During those twenty months may not he what is happening today or may not happen tomorrow, or if the landfill is given permission to expand we may not know what will happen," said another DOH official.

The DOH is now recommending that DEP oversee landfill activities and enforce regulations. They will be taking public until February 14th via email at env-concern.health@pa.gov.

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