Outrage, fear over Lackawanna air quality

Residents describe tingling, bloody noses
Posted at 9:07 PM, Nov 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-21 23:41:11-05

Nearly two weeks after the old Bethlehem Steel site went up in flames, neighbors in the area say they "can't breathe" in their homes.

During a packed public meeting at the Lackawanna Senior Center, one resident described waking up to a bloody nose and a tingling sensation.

The meeting's focus was on air quality concerns after the massive fire sent plumes of smoke billowing into the sky, prompting officials to issue an evacuation order for affected residents.

"I run two giant air purifiers 24/7...if I go outside I feel dizzy, feel like I'm going to pass out. It's really bad out there," said Raelyn Leroy, who lives near the site.

Last week, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) confirmed high levels of benzene, a cancer-causing chemical, were found in the air at the height of the fire.  However, it was noted that the benzene was unlikely to have caused significant harm to those who may have breathed it in.  The CDC says major effects of benzene occur with more than a year of exposure.

Nevertheless, questions remain about exactly what compounds were in the smoke.  One of the companies operating in the old steel site was a plastics recycling plant.  Assemblyman Mickey Kearns wants to know exactly what was burning in that fire.

Other neighbors at the meeting Monday night voiced concerns about the amount of testing conducted, and the locations in which they were conducted.

DEC officials said they did "the best they could."

The DEC is still waiting for the Environmental Protection Agency's test results to come in. 

The State DOH says that residents should throughly clean their homes, and even hire a professional cleaning service if possible to take care of soot and dust from the fire.

The State Health Department says that this will not be the last meeting with Lackawanna neighbors.