by Susan E. Walsh
April 08, 2004
A 1994 survey found that cancer was the leading cause of death among Ketchikan residents as opposed to heart disease as the number one cause nationally.
On February 23, 1996 over a dozen local health care professionals submitted the following letter to the Division of Public Health:
After an initial investigation we were informed that Ketchikan's population was too small for such a study and the Department of Health and Social Services instead chose to study ski wax emissions in the Anchorage area.
The Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry was petitioned to perform a study. Prior to any study by ATSDR, Ketchikan Pulp Company offered to clean out water tanks, apply covers and haul water for those residents in the pulp mill vicinity "for free. This meant any remaining water tanks with available sediment for study rendered any data collected statistically invalid and therefore no concrete analysis ensued.
As a health care professional in Ketchikan 26years I can only say that this was a great travesty. There is a plethora of opinions regarding this subject. I for one sought hard scientific data to either refute or support my observations.
After the closure of the pulp mill a technical discussion group was formed regarding the nature of pollutants discharged, half-life of said toxins and potential cleanup of the cove. An independent scientist was hired to study the data and make recommendations. She has extensive experience in toxic waste cleanup and remediation with credentials from both UC Berkley and M.I.T. There was and continues to be extensive encumbrances on this property of which the borough assembly was made aware. The recommendations of this group fell on the borough assembly's deaf ears. That data is still available and anyone interested in reviewing it can feel free to contact me.
What I garnered from Mr. Stallings, letter is before we encourage any and all industry it is paramount that long-term public health and welfare for this community be addressed.
I would applaud any and all efforts towards this endeavor.
Susan E. Walsh
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