Documents Raise EPA Coverup Concerns

1:52 AM, Feb 13, 2013   |    comments
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ATTICA, NY - There are new concerns about a possible chemical cover-up in Attica, regarding Hillcrest Industries and the terrible smell issue the village suffered through last year.

2 On Your Side has obtained new documents that show some critical details weren't released to public, while the EPA tried to extinguish a burning pile of garbage in September and October.

2 On Your Side's Jeff Preval heard from two Attica officials Thursday, who claim that the EPA withheld information.

"Somebody screwed up somewhere, didn't do the job that was supposed to be done and rather than name names, they just held some information back," said John Perry, an Attica Village trustee.

What's got Attica leaders so enraged about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has to do with federal documents that weren't released to the public. They include a redacted press release from late Sept. 2012, when the EPA first released data of what chemicals were coming from the Hillcrest site, located at 40 Favor Street in Attica. The documents also include a review from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, or ATSDR, which partnered with the EPA to do air testing.

The information at issue involves a powerful chemical called benzene. According to the American Cancer Society, the chemical is a colorless, flammable liquid that can cause cancer. Benzene, along with other pollutants had been burning at Hillcrest last spring and summer. On Sept. 24, the ATSDR reported that benzene was found at Hillcrest's property line and, "weeks to years of exposure to the concentration reported may pose a public health concern."

Homes and a church are just feet from this location.

However, a couple days later, the EPA told the public that there was only a chance benzene was coming from the site. The agency wouldn't declare any health concern.  

"I think there's a few reasons that happened, one being they didn't want to start any type of panic, over whether they thought people were going to get cancer right away," said Perry.

Chris Van Son, another Attica trustee, who is running for mayor of the village said that the new information, "frustrates me, I think it happens a lot and if there is stuff being withheld, I would like to see it brought out, so people really truly are aware of what potential problems there are brought out."

And finally, according to the non-edited version of the same press release, the EPA chose not to say that there were any short term affects from benzene. The agency went so far as to delete that benzene is known to cause cancer.

EPA press officer Elias Rodriguez tells us in a statement that the agency, "was transparent," and that it, "shared all of its scientific information with the public throughout its response to the Hillcrest fire." And that changes to the press release were made to make it more "accurate."

"I think that a lot of things were held back for one reason or another," said Perry.

Sen. Patrick Gallivan, who represents Attica told Two On Your Side in a statement, "If EPA, or any regulatory entity, withheld pertinent health and safety information from the residents of Attica regarding the Hillcrest site, I will work with local, state and federal partners to ensure that withheld information is made available, appropriate action is taken and responsible parties are held accountable to the people they serve."

According to Attica officials, only glass is behind Hillcrest.

Meantime, the DEC still is monitoring the company and is doing air tests. In the past, the DEC has said there were health concerns in Attica.

Meantime, many residents and leaders in Attica are still waiting for the state to come to a settlement with Hillcrest to resolve all the fines against the company for causing the foul odor.

Also, many Attica residents still want a follow up meeting with the DEC and respective agencies handling the Hillcrest smell issue. A meeting was held late last year, however, there were many unresolved issues and questions for residents. Many residents still are demanding a second meeting to get their questions answered.



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