Citizen Staff Writer
By HEIDI ROWLEY
People who ride ATVs near Saginaw Hill are at a high risk of being exposed to lead and arsenic and may be putting others at risk, officials said at a public hearing last night.
Officials from four agencies spoke about the dangers at the defunct Saginaw Hill and Palo Verde mines. Represented were the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Pima County Health Department, Tucson Unified School District and the state Department of Environmental Quality. The meeting was at Harriet Johnson Elementary School, 6060 S. Joseph Ave.
BLM officials presented information from a 2004 study showing that near the mines, there is 17 to 100 times more arsenic than levels considered safe and 21 to 50 times more lead than maximum safety levels. Those levels are 3 parts per 10,000 for arsenic and 1 part per 1,000 for lead.
Lead can hurt children’s mental development, and arsenic can raise the risk of certain cancers.
The Health Department’s Dr. Elizabeth MacNeill told residents that children at the school are not at risk, but she recommended that children younger than 6 be tested for lead. The county is offering free testing for those children. She said school drinking water is not dangerous.
“Somebody who takes walks there a few times a week probably won’t be affected,” she said.
Motorcycle and ATV riders may be at risk because they inhale contaminated dust. Ten acres around the mines are closed to the public.
Well owners are being asked to volunteer water samples for testing. Information on testing is at www.saginawhill.ene.com.