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DHS news release

Oct. 24, 2007


General contact: Bonnie Widerburg, 971-673-1282
Program contact: Julie Early, 971-673-0977


DHS releases health assessment of Sherwood property, invites public comment




The Oregon Department of Human Services today released for public comment an evaluation of health risks posed by contamination at the former Ken Foster Farm in Sherwood.


The DHS Public Health Division has determined that most areas sampled at the site contain contamination below levels of concern and do not pose a risk to public health.


However, two locations are identified as a public health hazard, because the soil contains elevated levels of lead. Gardening at these two locations and one additional location also poses a health concern.


Children are at special risk of health effects from lead exposure. DHS does not anticipate children will be exposed to the soil at these locations, given that no children are living at the locations where elevated lead levels have been found.


The 40-acre area, located in the southeast corner of Sherwood, was once used as agricultural pastureland. Eight homes now occupy the site. While it was still in agricultural use, tannery waste was spread on the land with the intention of increasing the soil's organic content and nutrients.


A preliminary assessment by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality indicated the tannery waste contained animal wastes, as well as chromium and other metals. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency then asked the DHS Public Health Division Environmental Health Assessment Program to evaluate the environmental data and assess human health risks.


The report issued today includes several recommendations:

  • The geographic extent of the elevated lead levels in soil at two locations should be characterized further, in order to determine the boundaries of the known health hazard.
  • Appropriate environmental remediation is needed within these boundaries to prevent lead exposures. Until that occurs, parents should ensure children avoid playing near the two locations identified and mapped in the report.
  • It is unlikely that children would be coming into contact with the identified locations on a daily basis. However, parents who are concerned about young children being exposed to contamination from playing at the site should consider requesting their medical provider to check the child's blood lead levels.
  • Additional soil sampling is encouraged, to rule out the possibility that elevated lead levels exist at other locations. For the same reason, testing of groundwater for total chromium and chromium VI also is encouraged.
  • If work at the site exposes soil at depths greater than six inches, additional soil samples gathered at the new depth are needed to assess potential health hazards.
  • Gardening should be avoided in soil at three specified locations due to elevated levels of lead, chromium and other metals.
  • Neighbors can take common sense steps to minimize tracking on-site soil into homes. These include taking off shoes upon entering the house, wiping pets' paws, and washing hands after coming into contact with the dirt.

Staff from DHS, DEQ and federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry will be available to talk with residents and respond to concerns from 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 141, 2007, at the Sherwood Senior Center, 21907 SW Sherwood Blvd.


The public is invited to comment on the report, which can be found on the DHS Environmental Hea​lth Assessment Program Web site. Copies also can be obtained by calling 971-673-0977. Comments will be taken until Nov. 23 and may be mailed to Environmental Health Assessment Program, DHS Public Health Division, 800 NE Oregon, Suite 640, Portland, OR 97232. Anyone wishing to submit comments electronically may call 971-673-0977 to find out where to send them.


DEQ is conducting additional sampling of water and soil on the property, and will determine appropriate future protective actions.


EHAP is one of many public health programs within DHS that focus on prevention and helping people manage their health so they can be as productive and healthy as possible.


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1. The date was originally incorrectly given as Nov. 15. Corrected 10/31/07.