EAST LIVERPOOL - City schools Superintendent Ken Halbert turned information on a possible health study in East Liverpool over to some East End residents and the city's health board.
Back in late December, the East Liverpool Board of Education voted to have Halbert contact a University of Cincinnati assistant professor about a health study.
East End resident Alonzo Spencer, who gave the information to the board in December, attended the recent board meeting to hear the results.
Scott Dieringer (right) received the gavel from outgoing East Liverpool Board of Education President Robert Estell. Dieringer was chosen as board president, and Estell was selected as vice president for this term. (Photo by Michael D. McElwain)
"Obviously, this is a hot button issue," Halbert said while preparing his notes.
Halbert said he invited city leaders including Mayor Jim Swoger and Health Commissioner Jelayne Dray to the board meeting, but both declined and told Halbert that the East Liverpool Health District Commission would read the information and hear from the public at its next meeting.
Haynes, director of the Clinical and Translational Research Program at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, is conducting a study in the Marietta, Ohio, area and "works with communities exposed to environmental pollution to help understand their exposure and determine the health effects, if any, related to the exposure," Haynes stated in her correspondence to Halbert.
Haynes added, "I would love to meet with you and other city officials including the members of the city Board of Health and other interested parties to explore potential collaborative possibilities."
Haynes said she would be available to meet the morning of Jan. 21.
The idea of a health study was first proposed by the East Liverpool Board of Education last February when the group formally asked that "hair metal level tests" and "follow-up neuropsychological tests" be conducted on school-aged children within the district.
The program would be voluntary and conducted by some state or federal agency that wasn't named or mentioned in the February resolution put forth by board member Dick Wolf.
A copy of the resolution was sent to East Liverpool Health District offices, and the request was then sent to state officials.
The Ohio Department of Health indicated it would wait on a federal EPA's study of the air quality in and around the former East Elementary School before making any type of decision.
If further study was warranted, ODH indicated it will look into the matter. The report was since released and additional monitoring is scheduled to take place, but ODH officials did not say a comprehensive hair metal level test was imminent or planned.
The board then heard from Spencer about the ongoing Marietta study led by Haynes.
Halbert said, "It's unusual for a superintendent to have to deal with the EPA so often on these types of issues."
Board member Robert Estell agreed and said it was time to turn the matter back over to city health officials.
"We've done more than our due diligence, and now the ball is in their court," Estell said.
Wolf was more direct.
"At some point, the city has to step up and say it's their responsibility," Wolf said. "There's not a more powerful board in this city than the East Liverpool Health Board."
Wolf said he did not understand why the board does not react swiftly.
Board member Janice Martin said the matter should be turned over to the agency with more expertise, and that agency should coordinate efforts if a meeting takes place.
"You may want to go to the next East Liverpool Board of Health meeting and make a presentation to that group," Halbert said. "That may determine if they get involved with Dr. Haynes."
Spencer said he would attend the next health board meeting.