In response to Escondido Neighbors United and community requests, Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) released a Notice to Park Visitor on their website regarding the contamination in Felicita Creek.
See notice here: NOTICE TO FELICITA PARK VISITORS
We are happy to see that a notice has finally been offered and we will be looking to the County to ensure that it is posted where the visiting public can see it. This Notice is a commitment the DTSC made to the public at the September 30, 3014 public meeting and we appreciate their following through on this.
While we are glad the information in some form is being provided to the general public, there are a couple points that the reader should keep in mind– especially regarding potential risks.
ENU Requests revision of language in Notice regarding risks from the contamination
As the Notice states, the evidence shows that the level of volatile organic compounds, (VOCs) in the creek exceed the cleanup levels of the Maximum Contaminant Levels or MCLs. These are the agreed upon cleanup levels for the Chatham pollution. The Notice goes on to state that there are no risks and it will not cause any health concerns. To say, so uncategorically, that there are no risks, in our view, overstates the situation. It is surprising, given the uncertainties and unknowns of the exposures, individual differences, chemical concentrations, modeling, changes in cancer slopes etc… that DTSC affirmatively states that there is no risk.
Our understanding is that where 1) a contaminant that impacts health is present and 2) a pathway of exposure exists—then a risk of impact exists. It may not be a high or even a medium risk but how an individual reacts to exposure to a chemical is a large unknown and cannot be fully predicted. The creek is only measured every 4-6 months so the levels could go up and down during that time. There are also more than one contaminant in the creek and people of all ages, pregnant women, children may be exposed to the creek. There are many uncertainties related to risk and exposure. Even the DTSC Human Health Risk Memo discusses conditions of use under which there may be potential risks. However, the Memo fails to acknowledge that the pools near FC-7 (the most southern monitoring location) are not the only pools that children play in. The area near the northern playground, and the highest monitoring results, also has pools and water year round. Felicita Park is not only a Park that people occasionally visit, but it is the ‘backyard’ to lots of homes and families and there are people who use it every day.
Further, it is important to know that MCL is not the “safe” level. But, rather there is a significant cost-benefit analysis used to set the MCL based on risk and cost.
It is somewhat confusing that DTSC makes hard and absolute statements about some aspects of the site even where uncertainties exist and equivocates on others.
The Notice states that contamination in the creek is ‘likely caused’ by the Chatham Barrel Yard. If based on all of the accumulated data and knowledge of the site history, hydrogeology, and cleanup actions, DTSC is unable to state the source of the contamination is from the former Chatham Brothers Barrel Yard, it is unclear why are the agency seems more certain of the risk where far less evidence exists to make the claim. We would suggest that it would be in the public’s best interest if DTSC would be consistent with its disclosure of uncertainties.
We suggest that DTSC revise the Notice to State that normal exposure is anticipated to pose a very low risk or even a very, very low risk instead of stating– what cannot be proved– “no” risk.