WILLIAMSPORT – The Department of Environmental Protection today issued its final report on the environmental assessment conducted in and around Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove Borough, Snyder County, during last March and April.
The assessment was initiated in response to newspaper reports suggesting a link between environmental contamination and cancer among borough residents and college students who have been associated with an off-campus housing building, known as the warehouse.
Much of the testing focused on the area near the old Rhoads Mill, a former agricultural feed mill where DEP supervised the cleanup of leaking underground fuel tanks and contaminated soil prior to 2005.
“The Department of Environmental Protection conducted extensive testing of soil, air and water in and around Susquehanna University, the warehouse and Rhoads Mill, and found no evidence of environmental contamination that would pose an immediate health risk to the public,” DEP Northcentral Regional Director Robert Yowell said. “The final report on the department’s environmental assessment details sampling methods, the locations of all sampling points, and the results of each sample, and is available for public review and comment online.”
DEP scientists tested for 68 volatile organic compounds and 99 semi-volatile organic compounds — common chemical compounds ranging from benign to dangerous — through a variety of sampling and collection methods.
Volatile compounds evaporate easily and can become air contaminants including gasoline constituents such as benzene and toluene and solvents. Semi-volatile compounds are heavier and don’t evaporate readily. They include pesticides, herbicides and heavier petroleum products found in diesel fuel.
The report concludes that, “while no absolute conclusions on what may have been present in the past can be drawn, the investigation did not find any residual contamination in the soil or groundwater that would indicate that a significant unknown source of exposure was formerly present that would have posed an unacceptable health risk.”
DEP has shared this information with the state Department of Health, which is continuing its analysis of cancer incidence in students and alumni previously enrolled at Susquehanna University over a 20-year period. Findings related to cancer incidence will be released by the Department of Health when the analysis is completed.
The report and all sample results are posted on the DEP regional office Web site at www.depweb.state.pa.us. Click on “Northcentral,” then “Community Involvement” and “Selinsgrove Results.”
Public comments on the report will be accepted through May 21 via e-mail on the “Selinsgrove Public Comment” link, or in writing to: Mike Welch, program manager, Environmental Cleanup Program, PA Department of Environmental Protection, 208 W. Third St., Suite 101, Williamsport, PA 17701.