Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
A long awaited report is inconclusive on what sickened construction workers at Ft. Wainwright in 2006. The draft report on the “Hangar 6” incident by state and federal health agencies was released after a public records request from an attorney, and subsequently published on line by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and the Alaska Dispatch. Former State Public Health Department toxicologist and study co-author Dr. Lori Vergruggee confirms the workers were exposed to a toxic chemical, but says the investigation found no clear culprit.
35 workers reported nausea, dizziness and headaches following the unearthing of odorous chalky tasting vapors during grading of a parking area outside the aircraft hangar construction site in June 2006. Subsequent health problems included blood in urine, memory loss, fatigue, sore throat and tingling skin. Most of the workers eventually recovered but four continue to claim health problems stemming from the incident. Verbrugge says doctors also tried to back track a cause from the symptoms.
Verbruggee says she unsuccessfully searched over 10,000 pages of soil chemical analysis reports trying to find something.
The State report cites a lack of on-site air monitoring, no field environmental screener, and failure to halt work upon initial complaints about illness. It recommends retaining pavement as a cap over the site, and better safety plans and equipment and an awareness about the toxic legacy at the 70-year-old army post. Ft. Wainwright is a National Superfund Toxic waste site, and has a long history of contamination. A year prior to the Hangar 6” incident, construction workers unearthed PCB’s and other toxins at the Taku Gardens housing site. The Army did not get back in time to comment on the issue.
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