Fed reports: No health hazards from Fallon pipeline, wells
Reno Gazette-Journal
30 May, 2002

Two new reports conclude a jet fuel pipeline in Fallon and domestic drinking water wells do not pose health hazards in the rural northern Nevada community.

The reports by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and the U.S. Geological Survey were conducted as part of an on-going investigation into a childhood leukemia cluster.

Fifteen children have been diagnosed with cancer since 1997. Two have died.

State Epidemiologist Randall Todd said the findings rule out the pipeline as a possible cause.

"We pretty much put the pipeline to rest this evening,"Todd told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

But some people are unconvinced because the agency did no independent testing. The findings were based on information provided by the pipeline company, the Navy and visual surveys by the state.

Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., called the findings"interesting."

In a statement issued Thursday, he said the search for a cause of the cancer cluster through"exhaustive investigation"would continue.

Another report issued Wednesday by the U.S. Geological Survey concluded drinking water wells tested in Churchill County show no traces of solvents, pesticides or jet fuel.

That report mirrors the USGS well tests done in 1989, which showed high levels of naturally occurring arsenic and radiation, but no man-made chemicals or fuels.

Experts have said it's unlikely those long-standing impurities could have caused a sudden spike in childhood cancer.

Critics of the pipeline report said the findings are unreliable.

"It's a whitewash,"Matt Warneke, whose daughter, Annastacia, 7, is recovering from leukemia, told the newspaper.

"They do surface things and go through the motions to keep the people here at bay,"he said."If they really wanted the truth, they'd look for it."

Steve Taylor, spokesman for Military Toxics Project, an environmental watchdog group in Lewiston, Maine, was also critical of how the federal toxic substances agency conducts investigations.

"The agency had a pattern of skimming the easily accessible data and then saying there is no identifiable public health danger,"he said.

"The reality is they didn't really look so they didn't find anything. They present a report and residents think because it bears the stamp of a federal agency that it's an appropriate investigation, but it's really just a surface review."

Others were reassured by the reports.

"I'm not a conspiracy theorist,"said Jim Grimson, who works in Fallon."Even if there were undetected spills along the pipeline, it still has to get to the kids somehow. And the water is clean."

The pipeline has carried jet fuel to the Fallon Naval Air Station base since 1957. Since 1993, it has carried JP-8 fuel, which recent scientific studies on rats have linked to lung, kidney, liver and DNA damage as well as suppression of the immune system.

The line, now owned by Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LLC, originates in the Bay area and travels 200 miles to Sparks, then 63 miles to the base.

An investigation by the newspaper last May found above-ground venting pipes, warning signs and electronic testing stations along the final 15 miles of the pipeline were in disrepair.

Kinder Morgan repaired the damage but said the pipeline itself has never leaked and is in excellent condition.

Last June, state officials inspected the surface of the pipeline's route through Fallon and said they saw no signs of leaks. Kinder Morgan also hired a survey firm which pumped a tracer chemical through the line and pronounced it intact.

All but about 10 miles of the pipeline is original.

"We routinely replace pipe for various reasons. It doesn't mean there's anything wrong with the integrity of the pipe,"said Eugene G. Braithwait, Kinder Morgan operations director.

"There were no leaks in that pipe. The officials tonight reported what we already know."

Copyright Associated Press
Original Story

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