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TUESDAY, AUGUST 9, 2005
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EDITORIAL

ADEM must give notification priority

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management has a Herculean task in identifying, defining, containing, remediating and monitoring leaking underground storage tank sites.

The profusion of tanks in the state, their unseen locations underground, and the geological variables affecting the spread of contamination all make ADEM's chore more difficult. ADEM is actively monitoring or cleaning 42 contamination sites in Morgan County, 34 in Limestone and 12 in Lawrence. There have been 10,000 known releases from undergound storage tanks in the state since 1985.

The frighteningly dangerous health risks associated with exposure to benzene, the most toxic of the contaminants associated with gasoline, make remediation an absolute necessity to protect public health.

The limited resources available for the task contribute to its difficulty.

Sonja Massey, chief of the groundwater branch of ADEM's water division, said ADEM has no procedure for notifying people that live or work near contaminated areas. Until an article appeared in THE DAILY in April, ADEM notified only those owning adjacent properties with drinking-water wells.

Since then, however, ADEM has posted a Web site listing all known contaminated sites in the state.

That is a good, inexpensive first step but, considering the potential health danger, the state must do more to notify those at risk. After all, how many people, when logging on to their computers, bother to check adem.state.al.us/WaterDivision/Ground/UST%20GW/USTRelease72105.xls?

ADEM, or perhaps another state agency such as the Department of Public Health, must make notification a top priority. It must do it efficiently, effectively and immediately.

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