By Mila Besich Lira
Last week, BHP hosted a community open house to inform the public about the findings of the Northwest Bio Monitoring Study. Environ was the company hired to conduct the testing. They presented all of the data available on the bio monitoring study. After all the studies were complete the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has reported that the company has received a No Further Action determination on their study and clean up. This means that the company has met the requirements and no further action or study is needed for the Northwest Study Area.
During the Winter of 1993 rains drenched Superior and the tailings dam on BHP property broke; areas throughout Pinal Avenue were flooded with tailings. That area would become known as the Northwest Study Area by BHP. Following the tailings dam break the company was mandated by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to clean up the areas and ensure that toxic soil was removed from the properties in the affected area. They also conducted the voluntary bio metric study to ensure that residents were not harmed by the accident.
In addition to the clean up, BHP also conducted a bio monitoring study, which analyzed and tested arsenic level in the urine of several residents in the area. In 2011, 11 residents participated in the voluntary study and in 2012 eight residents participated.
Arsenic is an element that is commonly found in Arizona. It is often found in drinking water as well as food sources such as fish and rice, which are considered organic sources of arsenic. Those who participated in the study were asked to limit or avoid consumption of fish and rice to ensure that the study was accurate. The study also looked for inorganic sources of arsenic, which would have been caused by other environmental exposure such as soil or dust. The study concluded that residents in the area were not harmed by the tailings dam break and that any arsenic in the body of those who participated was from natural sources.