Senator wants more Navy documents in Nevada cancer probe
RENO, Nev. (AP) – Sen. Harry Reid asked the Navy and a pipeline operator for more information Tuesday about the dumping and leaking of Navy jet fuel some fear could be contributing to a mysterious cancer cluster.
Reid, D-Nev., also called on officers at the Fallon Naval Air Station to explain why they don’t file reports with the federal government about the use of toxic chemicals in the rural community under the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act.
Navy officials pledged their full support in responding to the senator’s new query, but repeated their contention that the fuel has nothing to do with the 14 cases of childhood leukemia that state health officials have confirmed in the Fallon area.
A memorial service is scheduled in Fallon on Sunday for the first youth to die from the disease, Adam Jernee, 10.
”There is just no evidence the state has been able to turn up to date to suggest that jet fuel is a problem,” Fallon NAS spokeswoman Anne McMillin said Tuesday.
”But certainly it is important to look at everything in the community, whether it is military activity, industrial activity or agricultural,” she said.
Reid wants more information about the transportation, storage, use and disposal of jet fuel in Fallon. He made his request in letters to Rear Adm. Richard Naughton, the commander at Fallon NAS, Transportation Secretary Norman Minetta and executives of Kinder-Morgan Energy Partners, the Lakewood, Colo.-based firm operating the pipeline.
Reid said he wants a detailed accounting of all aircraft that dumped fuel in the area since 1993 and wants to be notified of any future dumpings.
”Whether we are talking about the Navy’s practice of dumping jet fuel from its aircraft or the pipeline that carries the fuel from Reno to Fallon, lingering questions remain about this toxic substance and whether or not it could be a contributing factor in local leukemia cases,” Reid said in a statement Tuesday.
”By studying the jet fuel pipeline and documenting known incidents of contamination, we can alleviate concerns and remove any existing dangers to residents and the environment,” he said.
Reid told Minetta that the fuel pipeline from Reno to Fallon has been in use for more than 40 years and should be inspected by federal officials.
He asked the pipeline operator to fully document any known fuel spills and provide more details on the venting of harmful jet fuel vapors.
Concerns about releases of JP-8 jet fuel, which contain known carcinogens, ”would warrant further investigation under any circumstances,” Reid said.
”But the leukemia cluster in the Fallon area, coupled with the age of the pipeline, compel immediate and heightened scrutiny into the condition of the pipeline and possibility of releases of jet fuel in the vicinity of Fallon.”
Officials for Kinder-Morgan did not immediately return telephone messages left Tuesday evening at corporate headquarters in Colorado.
Fallon NAS has been providing additional information to Reid and his staff on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee since Reid held a congressional field hearing in Fallon on April 12, McMillin said.
So far, the air station has turned over more than 1,000 pages of environmental documents to the Agencies for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a sister agency of the Centers for Disease Control, she said.
”If they want 1,000 or 10,000 more pages, we’ll get it to them,” she said Tuesday from Fallon.
”We’re not hiding anything. It’s just a matter of getting staff time to respond to all these queries at all the different levels,” she said. She said she had no information regarding Toxic Release Inventory reports typically filed with the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Navy doesn’t believe the fuel is a factor because there has been no sign of any volatile organic compounds in area water, ”which is what you would expect to find,” she said.
At a town meeting in Fallon Monday night, parents, residents and doctors vented some frustrations with the state’s continuing investigation of the cancer cluster but broke little new ground.
Most of the criticism centered on what some called the slow pace of the probe by the Nevada Division of Health.
Dr. Randall Todd, state epidemiologist, said the Navy earlier took 58 water samples from wells and taps of Fallon Naval Air Station personnel who live off base. Those wells showed no traces of jet fuel, he said.
Since 1997, 13 children who lived in the Fallon area for varying lengths of time have been diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia, the most common form of the blood cell cancer. A 14th child was diagnosed with a less common form, acute myelogenous leukemia.
Health officials have said that normally the rate of acute lymphocytic cases would be about three in every 100,000 people.
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