Tests reveal no health threats on poisoned land

| 06/10/2015 | 9 Comments
Cayman News Service

Ash mound before it was spread on Powell’s land in 2006

(CNS): Residents tested for possible arsenic poisoning as a result of living close to land believed to be contaminated following its use as a temporary debris site in the wake of Hurricane Ivan in September 2004 have been given a clean bill of health. Following concerns that elevated levels of arsenic had been detected on the land, government called in PAHO to undertake independent analysis and tests. The interim report reveals no health concerns, and although two people living close to the land had higher traces of arsenic than the control group, the levels were still well below the recommended safe levels.

The interim report was revealed at a press briefing Tuesday morning hosted by the Cabinet Office, which has been coordinating government’s efforts to address a problem that has dragged on for more than ten years.

Ten year land poison saga plagues family

Poison land saga rolls on as government awaits test results

Although some soil samples are still to be tested by the International Centre for Environmental and Nuclear Sciences, which is working in partnership with PAHO doctors, officials were keen to stress that there is no evidence of any serious contamination and no one exposed to the land is at risk.

Dr Kam Mung from PAHO said that the overall findings from the work carried out so far has revealed no health concerns in the exposed group and no signs or symptoms of chronic exposure. Scientists also found soil samples taken from the Clifton Hunter High School, which is just yards away from what was believed to be poison land, had some of the lowest levels of arsenic among all of the tests carried out so far. Arsenic occurs naturally in the earth’s crust and people are also exposed to arsenic from vehicle emissions and smoking.

Despite all indications from the scientists that the level of arsenic poisoning on the land appears to be well under expected norms and within safe levels, the government said it is not abandoning the Powell family, the owners of the land which was used to process and burn debris from Ivan.

Cabinet Secretary Samuel Rose said the government would continue to work with the family going forward to monitor the land and the Department of Environmental Health was clearing the remaining debris from the site. He said other agencies involved in the review of the site would also continue to work with the family to test the land contamination as there are also concerns about several other toxins.

Dr Sam Williams-Rodriguez, the medical officer of health, said the priority for the Public Health Department had been the possible health threats to those living around the area. However, with the results revealing that no one has been exposed to levels of arsenic that could cause medical problems and with no evidence at all of health conditions associated with arsenic exposure, public health concerns had been alleviated.

The rest of the soil tests will be completed before the end of the year and government will address the remediation issues, if necessary, once those results are complete. The independent scientist all agreed, however, that further testing was unlikely to reveal anything to be worried about.

The saga over the land has dragged on for almost a decade, with the owners concerned that they were exposed to serious levels of various toxins. The family said government had not fulfilled its obligations to clean up the land after it was used as debris site. Meanwhile, government had accused the landowners of creating problems after they used some contaminated debris as fill and spread it across the land.

In a back and forth that went on for years, the Cabinet Office finally took up the issue in earnest this year after the family went to the media and revealed their decade-long wrangle over the potential poisoning of their land.

Arsenic exposure investigation, Cayman Report, October 2015

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Category: environmental health, Health, health and safety

Comments (9)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    poisoned land ???????? what I don’t understand ????death is not harmful////pain wont hurt???? broken but acceptable????

  2. Environmental hypocrisy says:

    Government said the very same thing about the florescent green water flowing in dyke or canal next to Mount Trashmore “acceptable levels” simple means the government is not and will not be held responsible for polluting the environment. I tell one thing they won’t bath in or drink the water in these specific areas!!! no SIr !! Government those in society not bound by the law! yet they claim they care so much about the environment.

  3. Double Tap says:

    Anon 10:08pm since you trust what the government says why don’t you buy it and you and your family go and live on it. If nothing is there why are they still conducting test. Testing for arsenic only is kind of silly when test clearly show other dangerous and harmful contaminants are present thus CNS correctly heading this article “poisoned land” and the fact that government failed to meet its contractual commitment to the owner to properly clean up the property now ten years later is disgraceful. But you in the time honoured Caymanian tradition has found time and space in your narrow little mind to cast aspersions on the land owner and his situation. You Despicable Little $#@& !!!!

  4. Anonumous says:

    I would conduct an independent testing and then compare the results. We are talking about life and health here. I bet you can have your own samples tested in the USA labs.

  5. Anonymous says:

    DEH should borrow Ossie’s Ebola tent to cover the area and keep it dry.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I love how the CIG picks and chooses when and where they decide to appoint value to scientific research and findings;

    Arsenic: The scientists say “all clear”, so we’re good.
    Cruise port: Eff’ dem damn scientists, we’re gonna dredge and build regardless!

    Awesome.

    – Who

  7. Anonymous says:

    This is really no surprise knowing the individual involved.

    He should be made to pay the cost of the whole exercise.

  8. Anonymous says:

    As usual, someone trying to set up a scare to get a bunch of money from Government. Oh, and by the way, they were not foreigners trying to rip off our tax payers’ dollars. Born, generational etc etc.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Hysterical–in all senses of the word.

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