Several members of the Southington Police Department, both past and present, have been diagnosed with cancer and other chronic illnesses in recent years and now Chief Jack Daly and Health Director Shane Lockwood are taking a proactive approach to make sure the department’s headquarters are safe.
Daly and Lockwood each confirmed Wednesday that the town has hired Hygenix, Inc., of Stamford to conduct air quality testing within the department headquarters on Lazy Lane to assure that the work environment is a safe place.
“I want to stress that this is all just precautionary. We are not expecting to find anything, but this is a means of assuring department is in fact safe and is designed to answer any questions that Chief Daly or others in the department may have,” said Lockwood, director of the Plainville-Southington Regional Health District.
The study is limited to six canister tests, with the tests being taken last week at points throughout the department. The tests are expected to cost between $2,000 and $3,000 although how it will be funded was not clear on Monday.
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Test results are expected to come back in approximately a month, officials said.
Daly said Monday that he requested the tests through the regional health district after it was brought to his attention that there have been a “higher than usual” number of illnesses within the department.
The number and types of illnesses have not been released, although Southington Town Manager Garry Brumback said that the concern is related to different types of cancer. The types of cancer and who is affected are protected under state and federal Health Insurance Protection Act laws.
“We’ve had several people in last few years coming down with different types of cancer,” said Brumback, who noted that Daly and Lockwood approached him about and have taken the lead on this study. “In an abundance of caution, we wanted to make sure this is not environmental or habitat issue. They came to be and asked to do this and I said, ‘by all means’.”
One reason for concern is that the police department is located across from the Solvent Recovery property, a Superfund site that is monitored closely by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
A Superfund site is defined under federal act as a site that has known and considerable levels of environmental contamination as a result of chemical use. The Solvent Recovery site is being cleaned up under the close eye and with oversight from the EPA.
Lockwood said he receives quarterly reports from the EPA regarding progress and contaminants on the site. The findings, which are available as part of an in-depth analysis available on the EPA’s Superfund website, show no alarm as the process remains in the remediation stage.
“To date, there have been no reasons for concern and we continue to monitor the situation to make sure it remains that way,” Lockwood said.
The decision to test the police department also comes in the wake of testing at several local schools after high levels of PCBs were found, but sealed, within calking at DePaolo Middle School and Kennedy Middle School.
The town’s remaining schools that have not yet been renovated – Derynoski Elementary, Flanders Elementary and Kelley Elementary – were tested for air quality and the air quality tests at all three schools and both middle schools came back negative. Those tests were also conducted by Hygenix.
No PCBs were used when the Southington Police Department was built and the tests are unrelated, Lockwood said. Hygenix was chosen based on their reputation as one of the top environmental consultant firms in the northeast.
Daly was clear in saying Monday he expects negative results, but said he simply wants to be proactive as it relates to employee health.
“This information is very important so that we can make sure our employees, as an employer, are not at risk,” Daly said. “The bottom line is there have been a few illnesses here and we want to make sure 100 percent that they are not associated with the work area.”
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