Statement by Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton Upon the Release of the Report on Vapor Intrusion by the Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation

February 2, 2006
I would like to thank Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli, Chair of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee for joining me in today’s release of the final report on vapor intrusion. This report, Vapor Intrusion of Toxic Chemicals: An Emerging Public Health Concern, is a summary of the findings and recommendations from a series of public hearings held across the state, including here in Ithaca last April. This report confirms what the residents here in Ithaca unfortunately already know – that vapor intrusion is the most significant health threat facing those living near contaminated sites.

The lesson learned from this experience is that New York State must take a pro-active approach to addressing vapor intrusion. Residents here in Ithaca have been frustrated by the lack of information provided by the state agencies and responsible parties, as well as the uncertainty they face while they wait for test results.

One of the major findings of the report is that people who live in communities where there is any chance of vapor intrusion in their homes need access to the same quality of information used by agency staff and responsible parties to make investigation and mitigation decisions. Therefore, we are recommending that state and federal agencies develop a policy concerning the public release of testing results that addresses privacy concerns, while encouraging more widespread disclosure of information. Residents of affected properties would also like to see the test results in a timely manner. I will be introducing legislation that will require the state or responsible party to provide these results to residents within 30 days of testing.

Another concern that we heard here in Ithaca as well as at the other hearings is that people living in residences where vapor intrusion has been detected want to know the health impacts of their exposure. State and federal public health officials need to do a better job communicating to the affected public, as well as local government officials, what resources are available to them concerning the potential health impacts of their exposure to contaminants due to vapor intrusion. When there is evidence of human exposure, a community-wide Public Health Response Plan (PHRP) needs to be developed.

Also, health monitoring should be provided for all residents with documented exposure to contaminants caused by vapor intrusion. While I appreciate the complexities of doing valid health studies, I think, given the number of sites we are seeing around the state I am urging that the DOH give strong consideration to beginning such a study.

Once again, I would like thank Assemblyman DiNapoli for returning to Ithaca to release this report and welcome the opportunity to continue to work with him to address the concerns of my constituents and all New Yorkers who have been affected by vapor intrusion.