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May 2001 update - compiled by Helane Shields - prepared for WWW by ESRA

Date: November 26, 2001
From: Len Martin

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May 12, 2000 - Enclosed with the DEP's report, the Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), James Seif, apologized to Tony's mother admitting his agency distributed false information about a bee sting causing Tony's death in June 1999. Mr. Seif claimed his department did not know the name of the child until October 1999.
How can an investigation be performed and a conclusion be made about the cause of someone's death, if the victim's identity is unknown? DEP was given Tony's name prior to June 18, 1999 and if they could not recall it, as Tony's mother stated "all they had to do was ask."
DEP stated in its report that Leonard Martin mentioned the death of a young child at a hearing on March 16, 1999 but yet they claim they were unable to determine the identity of the child before releasing false information. Why didn't they call Mr. Martin?
PA DEP May 2000 report:

FACT: Tony did not die from a bacterial infection from a bee sting and indeed sludge had been spread near his home prior to his death.
DEP's May 2000 report claims "Pa DEP met with Joel H. Hersh who is the Director of the Bureau of Epidemiology, Pennsylvania Department of Health. Mr. Hersh reviewed the death certificate and had other medical records reviewed, all of which are confidential and not a matter of public record. Mr. Hersh reports that the death had as a probable underlying cause a pathogen which is not known to be found in bio-solids, nor is the bio-solid environment known to be a suitable media for propagation of this pathogen."

DEP's May 2000 report also refers to a NIOSH (National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health) study conducted for the UMWA (United Mine Workers of America) that found no human enteric pathogenic bacteria in bulk samples of sludge. DEP concluded "Our investigation and the conclusion of the Department of Health and NIOSH can not offer you an explanation for the cause of your son's tragic death. The most we can say scientifically and medically is that there is no evidence to suggest that biosolids was the source of the pathogen that caused the death of your son." * For the facts surrounding NIOSH, please see the UMWA's synopsis below. *

May 12, 2000 - Tony's mother, Brenda (Behun) Robertson and Leonard Martin, via a telephone conversation, contacted the PA Department of Health, Bureau of Epidemiology director Joel Hersh. Mr. Hersh was asked "how he concluded the pathogen responsible for Tony's death is not known to be found in sludge." He said he would have to call them back. When he phoned back five minutes later he said "he made the conclusion from the advice of his staff." He said if we could prove different he would revisit the issue. He also stated "if the pathogen is known to be found in biosolids - biosolids could be considered a probable cause in Tony's death."

May 16, 2000 - Brenda sent a letter to Mr. Hersh at the PA Department of Health. Brenda enclosed with the letter the EPA's Pathogen Risk Methodology in which the EPA has listed Staphylococcus aureus, the pathogen identified in Tony's Medical records as a pathogen known to be found in biosolids. Mr. Robertson's letter contained the following; "During our conversation you indicated a pathway is necessary for sludge to be a probable cause and you were under the impression Tony's exposure was from falling into sewage sludge. In fact; Tony's exposure was from riding a motorcycle across an open field which had freshly applied Class B sewage sludge dumped on it. My son was covered head to toe with this material." "We now understand the EPA believes with public access site restrictions and with good management practices Class B sludge is safe. But yet there were no signs warning my son and I of the risks associated with exposure to sewage sludge (if there had been, I am sure we would have avoided contact with this site)." "After the release of PA DEP's 2nd attempt to investigate my son's death I consulted with medical professionals who reviewed Tony's medical records. They all agreed one (1) pathogen was identified (Staphylococcus aureus). As you stated you concluded (through the advise of your staff) the pathogen identified is not known to be found in Biosolids. Please review the EPA's Pathogen Risk Assessment Methodology for Municipal Sewage Sludge Landfilling and Surface Disposal" PA/600/R-95/016 August 1995. Staphylococcus aureus has been identified by the EPA as a pathogen that poses a public health concern found in Biosolids (sewage sludge). Also you stated if we could show the pathogen in question to be found in Biosolids you would revisit this issue." "I hope your department with this accurate information can clarify the conflicting misinformation released by PA DEP's investigative report." ;


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