When the benzene level in the air at Kim Cupples’ Lansing Township, Michigan, home was found to exceed the state’s evacuation threshold, she says authorities including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) didn’t inform her for six months.
During the EPA’s routine screening in March 2016, Cupples’ home measured 1.6 micrograms per cubic meter, then in July 2016 measured 5.96 micrograms per cubic meter. The EPA’s screening level requiring further evaluation is .36, and the state’s evacuation level is 3.6 micrograms per cubic meter.
Despite the extremely high levels, the EPA took six months after the testing to “validate” the results and send them on to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The paperwork didn’t arrive in Cupples’ mailbox until January.
“It’s scary,” Cupples told the Lansing State Journal. “Every day I wake up and I’m stressed out, and I’m scared and I don’t want to be here.”
The toxins in the air seem to be coming from next door, where a fire in 2010 destroyed a business known for its years of contamination.
In the 1950s, an underground storage tank on the property was found to be leaking solvent and was removed. Adams Plating then established a business at that site in 1964, specializing in chrome, nickel and copper electroplating.
According to EPA reports, Adams Plating was cited for discharging treated waste into the municipal sewer throughout the 1970s. In 1980, a damaged a clay tile drain system nearby began leaking green water into the basement of a home nearby. Testing confirmed the green water contained chromium, likely another discharge from Adams Plating.
As a result of the green water, the EPA began to scrutinize the company and placed restrictions on how it disposed of its waste. In 1989, Adams Plating was added as a “Superfund” site to a list called the National Priorities List, which prioritizes U.S. hazardous release and contamination sites. Cleanup efforts began and continued throughout 1995, and review was required every five years.
Then, in 2010, Adams Plating was destroyed by a fire. Thousands of gallons of water was needed to put it out, and that water flooded poisons such as cyanide, copper, nickel and chromium into nearby ditches and basements. A green fence was placed around the site, and stands to this day.
In February, the DEQ sent the results to of the EPA testing to the Michigan Department of Health and Human services (MDHH), the agency that would determine the necessity of evacuation.
“(The results) are concerning if it is an ongoing exposure like that and it is coming from a contamination source that is not under control,” Christina Bush, a toxicologist with MDHH, told the Lansing State Journal.
Benzene is a known carcinogen that can cause life-threatening blood diseases as well as leukemia when a person has been exposed to the chemical for long periods of time. It has been linked to Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), lymphomas and aplastic anemia.
Source: Lansing State Journal