Public health advisory issued for Lake Linden Village Park; Health Department closes shoreline area

LAKE LINDEN – Local public health officials cordoned off a small section of Torch Lake shoreline Tuesday afternoon following the discovery of lead and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in sediments exposed by falling water levels.

Western U.P. District Health Department and the Michigan Department of Community Health issued a public health advisory after soil samples taken by Michigan Department of Environmental Quality revealed high concentrations of lead and PCBs.

The closed area, indicated by yellow caution tape and signs, is between the Lake Linden Village Park day use area and the Village campground beach.

“We’re working with State agencies to assess the extent of the situation,” said WUPDHD Health Officer Guy St. Germain. “At this point, the most important thing is to keep people out of the area based on the preliminary test results.”

St. Germain said the health department will work with DEQ and local units of government to secure the area, conduct further soil tests and determine next steps.

Gail Shebuski M.D., the health department’s medical director, said lead exposure poses a threat to human health because of its toxic effect on the brain and nervous system.

“Elevated lead levels in the blood can affect brain development in infants and toddlers,” Dr. Shebuski said. “The issue is ingestion – not skin exposure – so we’re most concerned about children who played in the area and may have put soil or sand in their mouths. Parents should contact the child’s physician or the health department for a blood-lead test.”

To make an appointment for lead testing at the health department office in Hancock, call 482-7382.

St. Germain said the health department will keep the public informed as more is learned about the situation, and will post information and advisories on its web site, www.westernuphealth.org.

Western U.P. District Health Department provides public health services to residents of Baraga, Gogebic, Houghton, Keweenaw and Ontonagon counties. In addition, its Superior Home Health and Hospice Division provides skilled nursing and hospice services in the five counties.  The Health Department has offices in Hancock, L’Anse, Ontonagon and Bessemer.