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NIOSH Collaborations in a Globalized World--special seminar

Dr. Marilyn Fingerhut, coordinator of the NIOSH Global Collaboration Program, discussed ‘NIOSH Collaborations: Occupational Health and Safety in a Globalized World’ with ERC EOH and OSHE students and faculty on April 6. 

World-wide only 10-15% of the 2.7 billion workers have access to occupational health and safety services. An estimated 4% of the global gross domestic product is lost due to workplace fatalities and injuries annually. Working within the various roles and responsibilities of United Nations Organizations, US and European agencies, employers, labor unions and international profession organizations substantial benefits to workers in multiple locations can result from collaboration. A primary mechanism is the World Health Organization Global Network of Collaborating Centers, with a central goal of ‘Occupational Health for All’. The network includes government, research, professional and academic institutions from 37 countries and three international professional associations (see 
            A Global Plan of Action has been developed, and guides the activities in the current work period  of 2009-2012. The five objectives are: to devise and implement policy instruments on worker’ health; to protect and promote health at the workplace; to improve the performance of and access to occupational health services; to provide and communicate evidence for action and practice; to incorporate workers health into non-health policies and projects. More information is shown at Projects associated with each priority can be found at .
                 Dr. Fingerhut, during the presentation
Several success stories were described. In Chile, a country-wide plan has been adopted to eliminate silicosis. A national laboratory has been set up and a program to train physicians to read chest films to detect silicosis and document their skill has been implemented. Respiratory protection training, exposure control methods, surveillance and spirometry training are also part of the initiative. A library is being created ( to make health and safety materials available; currently 800 items are included, in several languages. Strategies to reduce roadway accidents have also been successful, and 200 Road Safety materials are accessible through the library or at Following pilot work in South Africa, Tanzania and Vietnam, the program Protecting Health Care Workers Globally has been expanded to Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, Egypt and Afghanistan. A guiding principle of the collaborative work is to create materials and tools that are simple and useful.
It was terrific to learn how involved NIOSH is in global health and safety, and to better understand the Global Plan of Action. 

Heat Stress Firefighter Interdisciplinary Project


by Kristin Musolin, D.O.
It is time to update everyone on our Heat Stress Firefighter Research Project.   (See summer posting at the beginning of our blog, below.)
Our interdisciplinary research team includes an Occupational Medicine Resident, two Industrial Hygiene students, and an Occupational Nursing student.   The research team started on the project in July 2009 with our faculty advisor Dr. Amit Bhattacharya.   We are all shown here, during recent data collection: 
Todd Ramsey(hygiene), Dr. Bhattacharya, Dr. Musolin, Diane Busch James (nursing), Ashutosh Mani (hygiene).
The purpose of this project is to identify early criteria for evaluating the effect of heat stress on the cardiovascular, neuromuscular and cognitive systems of firefighters using various outcome measures.   Firefighters are exposed to thermal hazards during actual fire suppression and fire rescue.   For example, we know through the literature review that the firefighters’ personal protective equipment such as their suit and respiratory gear add to the thermal impact on the body.   Early detection of heat stress is important to help prevent firefighters from potentially dangerous outcomes, especially death from a cardiovascular event. 
           Image taken during simulated rescue in a smoke-filled space
To determine the effects of heat stress on the cardiovascular system, we are measuring pre/post blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturation, body mass index, and core body temperature using a radio pill during their regularly scheduled training drill. I must say that I was intrigued by the fact that a FDA regulated radio pill would be involved in measuring core body temperature.   The radio pill also called the telemetric pill was designed to sense the body’s temperature and transmit through a radio wave signal to a receiver. By using the radio pill, we are able to collect accurate temperature measurements every 10 seconds to hour intervals during physical activities. Interestingly, the concept of the radio pill was developed from NASA to monitor astronauts during space walking.   The radio pill usually remains in the gastrointestinal tract for one to two days and in the 1980’s they actually had to retrieve the pill and reuse them! Fortunately, CorTemp developed a radio pill that is more affordable and no retrieval is necessary. Surprisingly, the subjects do not know when the CorTemp radio pill is passed, but would know by simply using the receiver to detect a signal.
To determine the effects of heat stress on the neuromuscular system, we are using the Inertial Link Sensor to detect 3D motion parameters continuously during their training drill. It is a wireless sensor that tracks real-time data to be recorded possessing the ability to sense the subject’s orientation and positioning. Some digital output formats include linear and angular acceleration, velocity and orientation. Also, we are using the Berg Balance Scale to measure impairment in balance function by assessing functional tasks. The scale was developed initially to measure balance in community dwelling older people. 
To determine the effects of heat stress on the cognitive system, we are using various cognitive scales as well as a cognitive performance test pre and post tasks during their training drill. The cognitive scales include the Borg, Respiratory Distress, and Thermal Comfort scale.   The cognitive performance test is a standardized assessment based on the Allen Cognitive Disability Theory to detect change in response to an event.  
IRB approved our project a couple months ago. We had never gone through the IRB process before this. We found the “IRB” process to be somewhat straightforward. The IRB representatives were very helpful in answering our questions.   By going through this process, it assisted us in getting much of our project tasks completed.   It really depends on the scope of the study. For example, because our project included ingestion of a radio pill, it was much more complicated and more IRB forms needed to be completed to ensure the safety of the subjects.
We are excited to say that we completed our first data collection in March 2010. 
                     Ashutosh Mani monitors data collection on the laptop.
The next one will be in June 2010 and I think we will be better prepared for the second collection. The fire chief at the participating fire department has been extremely helpful and engaged in the research project.   Lastly, we will be attending the Firefighter Symposium on April 28, 2010 and can discuss more about our project then. 
Look here for another update in June.

ERC Travels Along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail

By Robin DeJager-Kennedy

On March 13th, 2010, University of Cincinnati ERC faculty and students from the Industrial Hygiene and Engineering programs followed the Kentucky Bourbon trail to visit three of the eight distilleries included in the trail. 

In picture: 1st row from left- Jay Jones, CIH,  Brenda Jones, Robin DeJager-Kennedy, Tiffany Beddoe, Nathan Schneider; 2nd row- Amy Turner, Dr. Sue Davis, Simon Chan, Trinity Hochstetler, Don Goins; 3rd row-Bryan Staley,  Jim Bowen, Heather Hochstetler, Rachel Jordon, Eric Glassford, Mike Martin.

The trip began with an early departure from Cincinnati in order to make the first tour offered at the Four Roses Distillery. The tour began with a video explaining the process of making bourbon, including the federal laws related to the production of bourbon. These include a grain mixture consisting of at least 51% corn, containing no additives, and must be aged in new, charred oak barrels. The laws that relate to the production of bourbon were one fact that was repeated at each stop on the tour. In addition, the process of making whiskey was very similar.

The process of making bourbon begins with the milling of the grain. Grains used in the making of bourbon whiskey include corn, rye, and malted barley. The grains are first milled, then added to water and cooked to begin the process of turning the starches in the grain into fermentable sugars.

Left: Samples of the different grains used (Woodford). Right: Mash cooker (Four Roses).

Next the yeast is added to the mash, and the mixture is transferred to the fermentation vats.

Left: Yeast being prepared. Right: Fermentation vats (both Four roses).

One impressive feature is that the entire process at Four Roses can be controlled by just one person through the extensive use of computers.

After the fermentation is complete in around 3-5 days, the mash begins the distilling process. Four Roses and Wild Turkey both use a double distilling process, while Woodford Reserve uses triple distilling. Double distilling begins with a beer still, followed by a pot still. The triple distilling done by Woodford uses all pot stills.

Left: Beer still (Four Roses) Right: Pot stills (Woodford).

After the distilling process is complete, the “high wine,” as the distillers call it, more commonly known as “moonshine,” or “white lightning”, is transferred to the charred oak barrels, for aging up to 12 years for the distilleries we visited. One reason that older whiskey is more expensive is that during the aging process, as much as 10-15 gallons can be lost to evaporation; the transfer into and out of the wooden barrel staves as temperatures change during the seasons causes the discoloration seen on older barrels. The distillers call this the “angels share.”

Left: Wild Turkey aging house. Right: Woodford aging house.

Both: Inside Woodford aging house.

After leaving Four Roses, the next stop was Wild Turkey.


The group at Wild Turkey

 Woodford Reserve was the final stop on the trip, which was also the oldest of the distilleries visited. They have the longest barrel run of the distilleries, at over 500 yards. This is used to easily transport the empty barrels to the filling station, then move the full barrels to the aging warehouse.

Both: Woodford Reserve barrel runs

Regarding health and safety at the locations, some questions were raised about the level of CO2 produced in the fermentation process. One tour guide explained that the windows were opened whenever the weather allowed for it to promote fresh air exchange. The amount of CO2 being produced was high enough that the emissions were visible when the air in the fermentation room was disturbed. When the guides at other distilleries were asked about CO2 monitoring, they said none was in place.  The filled barrels weigh 500 pounds.  In some locations, lifts were available for the barrels; manual handling was also observed.  

Overall, the distilleries appeared to have safe operations. There was ample signage to indicate hot surfaces, enclosed spaces, and areas with fire potential.

Overall it was a great trip, even with the dreary weather we had. Very educational and tasty (for us bourbon lovers), now we just need to arrange a trip to visit the other 5 distilleries. Thanks Heather for setting it all up!   

Students, faculty and NIOSH go underground...

by Nicholas Newman, D.O.

Over spring break, March 25-26, 2010 a multidisciplinary group of University of Cincinnati students from the industrial hygiene, engineering students, occupational health nursing, and an occupational and environmental medicine resident visited two facilities in Western Kentucky—a trip coordinated by Bruce Taylor, Safety Director at Dotiki Mine and Robert Gray of the District 10 MSHA office. During this two day trip, the group met up with a smaller group of hygiene students from the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health. In preparation for the visit, the group shared presentations regarding mine safety and health, the history of the Dotiki mine, as well as presentations on the rules and regulations relevant to coal mining. Following an uneventful but wet bus ride from Cincinnati through a spring rainstorm, we arrived in Madisonville, KY.

On March 25th the group visited the coal prep plant at Warrior Coal.  This plant is capable of processing over 1400 tons of coal per hour. This process washes the coal of the contaminating soil, ash, and rock. Thus improving its market value and decreasing its transportation costs. The prep plant uses over 70 million gallons of water per day and is able to recycle all but 1.5 million gallons of water daily. This plant is highly automated with the operation overseen by one person, with others available for ongoing routine maintenance during plant operation. After and orientation and safety training with Jamie Woodruff, we walked to the top of the plant and then followed the coal down, guided by Plant Manager Brad Taliaferro.
                    Safety training and dedication to the Kentucky Wildcats!
                                  Exterior of the preparation plant
                          Interior of the prep plant, final stages of washing
On March 26th, we visited the underground mine at Dotiki. We were welcomed by General Manager Mark Evans and his assistant Gary Thweatt. After the appropriate safety orientation from our knowledgeable safety coordinators at Dotiki, we suited up in Tyvek suits, mine hats and boots, eye protection, and hearing protection and headed to the elevator to make the 700+ foot descent into the Dotiki mine. From the base of the elevator, we rode in diesel-powered vehicles for about 45 minutes (about 6 miles and 300 feet deeper) to the working face of the mine. Guides with us underground were: Bruce Taylor, Chris Gunn, Danny Key and Robert Gray. 
  Bruce Taylor, safety director, showing the escape roping to be followed in an emergency
                                        Ready to go with mine lights and guides!
Dotiki is mined in a room and pillar pattern. It is mined using a continuous mining method and is the largest coal mine in the United States using this system. More than 20 miles of belt connect the mine to the Dotiki prep plant, where they can process 1300 tons of coal per hour. 
 The author takes over as occupant in the shuttle car, the unit that transfers coal to the belts.
Underground, we observed the escape rope routes and stored self rescuers and visited one of the safe rooms. 
                       Underground stored self rescuers for emergency use
  Safe room, with more self rescuers, food, water and fresh air supply.  Miners can stay here for as much as a week, awaiting rescue.  
The Warrior and Dotiki Mine Rescue Teams have won many mine rescue contests, and are very proud of their safety records. Management and the safety leaders impressed us with their   enthusiasm to teach a group of occupational health and safety professionals about their work. This trip was very worthwhile and important in that it illustrated the occupations of coal miners and safeguards to reduce the hazards of the work. The electronic monitoring of miners underground through units attached to the mine cap was illustrated and we observed the computer system above ground.  The newest dust monitors allow miners to visual montor respirable dust concentrations as they work--a great improvement over sending samples away for analysis.
The employees at Warrior and Alliance Coal were very helpful to our group and clearly very proud of the work they do. We will think of them, when we turn on the lights!
More photos are shown at:




Exposure Assessment Statistics--a three-day short course

 by Megan Lobaugh

Students from Industrial Hygiene, Occupational Safety and Health Engineering, and Epidemiology came together for a short course on Exposure Assessment Statistics. Martha Waters, Aaron Sussell, and Catherine Beaucham, from NIOSH, came to the University of Cincinnati to present a three day workshop on statistics. The workshop began with a pre-test assessing our previous knowledge of statistical distributions, stats terms, and basics of occupational exposure assessment. Following the pre-test, we reviewed basic exposure assessment concepts including key definitions and differences between qualitative and quantitative exposure assessments. In the second section, we moved on to a discussion of exposure sampling designs and the different approaches to obtaining exposure data. Next we reviewed AIHA similar exposure groups (SEGs) and performed a Virtual Walkthrough exercise of a construction site through pictures and brief descriptions. The goal was to collaborate with others in the workshop to qualitatively develop SEGs for the tasks being performed (see the pictures of us performing this exercise below). After lunch the first day, we began our statistics discussion with the normal distribution, its parameters, and calculations. We finished off our first day by reinforcing these concepts through application to a dataset.
        Amy Turner and Don Goins collaborting on a 'virtual walkthrough' to determine similar exposure groups.
       Discussing the 'vitual walkthrough' 
    Martha Waters and Catherine Beaucham leading the group discussion on similar exposure groups determined during the 'virtual walkthrough' exercise.  
The second day of our workshop began by reviewing the lognormal distribution and its application in industrial hygiene and quantitative exposure assessment. Again we reinforced the calculations of the lognormal parameters and goodness-of-fit by plotting and working with a dataset. Following our lognormal distribution review, we discussed exposure variability among and between groups and individuals. At this time, we used IHStat to work with several datasets and again review the statistical concepts. Following our work with the statistical concepts and datasets, we finished our second day with discussions of occupational exposure limits (OELs) and the application of statistics in determining exceedance of OELs.
The third day of the workshop focused on tying everything together to form an ideal exposure assessment strategy for your particular situation. We also discussed evaluating exposure controls, how to design a sampling plan, comparing pre-control exposure data with post control data, and ongoing evaluations in the workplace. We finished up our final day with questions and any clarifications the students needed, as well as gave us time to ask questions specific to our own research.
This workshop was a great review and application of statistical concepts presented in a fashion which made it easy for us to learn and truly understand the material.   All students left with a better grasp and understanding of statistics and what the numbers really mean. Thank you Martha, Aaron, and Catherine for sharing your statistics and exposure assessment knowledge! 
The three day-long sessions were held on February 18, March 4 and March 11 in the Howard Ayer Computer Laboratory at Kettering.

Research Capacity Building...

2010 Pilot Research Program (PRP)
Research Capacity Building Workshop

In our concerted effort to build the skills of trainees and junior faculty to secure research funds, we facilitate an annual workshop on the University of Cincinnati campus. Each PRP partner university can send two researchers to the two-day workshop. The 5th Annual workshop was held on March 22-23, at the Department of Environmental Health (Kettering Laboratory), on the College of Medicine campus. A total of 12 participants including 8 PhD students and 4 assistant professors attended the workshop.

Dr. Jack Kues, Assistant Senior Vice-President for Continuing Professional Development, Assistant Dean for Continuing Medical Education and Professor of Family Medicine served as a presenter on the “nuts and bolts” of the workshop for researchers. This year one of the major foci of the workshop was to orient the participants about the new review process and scoring system utilized by NIH and CDC/NIOSH. The two-day curriculum provided participants with “hands-on” experience about how and where to look for funding sources, development of a justifiable budget, strategies to utilize to enhance the significance and impact of the proposed research project, strategies for effectively responding to the reviewer’s comments in a resubmission, and dos and don’ts of the research grant development process. Additionally, faculty members supported by the Cincinnati ERC and others provided the participants insight into two topic areas: 1) “An Engineering Approach for Resolving Occupational Health Problems” given by Dr. Rupak Banerjee, Associate Professor of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering and 2) translational or research to practice grant funding opportunities at University of Cincinnati/Children’s Hospital’s CCTST/CTSA program (Center for Clinical and Translational Science and Training/Clinical and Translational Science Awards) given by Dr. Joel Tsevat, Professor and Associate Dean for Clinical and Translational Research.

              Dr. Banerjee illustrates the aspects of capacity building.

  Dr. Tsevat (left) and Dr. Kues providing internet resources to participants.

Participants were given the opportunity to network and ask additional questions on a one-on-one basis with all of the workshop presenters as well as some of the faculty members from the University of Cincinnati. We also encouraged participants to submit a proposal for the next PRP Request for Proposals round.

And here is feedback from a participant…, doctoral student Ashutosh Mani:

Entering into the PhD program at Environmental Health, University of Cincinnati, I had no idea how a grant works. All I knew about grants is that some institutions fund research somehow. I was unaware of the fact that writing a good grant takes a lot more than just good science. I attended the first Pilot Research Program (PRP) in fall of 2008. So, after attending the PRP this year, I came to know about the grant writing seminar held in Spring Break.

I attended the Workshop, expecting to learn something about grants beyond the basics. It was a very good learning experience for me. I learned about writing and reviewing grants. I was glad that the speakers mentioned some of the unwritten trade secrets about writing grants that would help one in the long run. Listening to speakers talking about their real life experiences gave me a peek into the issues one would face in the real world. The workshop was also a good front for building one’s network as researchers from different fields attended. I look forward to attending the next workshop as that would be really helpful for me when I write a grant of my own in future.


Construction Safety Day

The 11th Annual ACI/OSHA Construction Safety Day conference, A Lasting Impression

By Todd Ramsey
On Tuesday February 16th the 11th Annual Allied Construction Industries/ OSHA Safety Day was held at the Sharonville Conference Center despite inclement weather. The following members UC’s AIHA student chapter attended the conference: Joe Hoffman, Amy Turner, Heather Hochstetler, Ashutosh Mani, Tiffany Beddoe, and Todd Ramsey. Cynthia Betcher from the occupational health nursing program also attended. 
Hygiene students: Amy Turner, Ashutosh Mani, Joe Hoffman, Todd Ramsey, Heather Hochstetler and Tiffany Beddoe; photographed by Cynthia Betcher from occupational health nursing.
After braving the icy roads (UC was officially closed!), we all checked in took advantage of many networking opportunities with local construction tradesmen, safety consulting firms, worker’s compensation organizations, and safety equipment suppliers. Examples of the latest advancements in safety equipment technology were on display, accompanied by experts who were willing to answer questions.
Amy Turner having her inner ear imaged

             Tiffany Beddoe also having her inner ear imaged
The keynote speaker was David Maxfield of Vital Smarts, who is the author of Silent Danger- the Five Crucial Conversations of a Safety Culture. His presentation was very enlightening, illustrating common communication pitfalls and ways maintain effective commendation, as opposed to going silent.
The program agenda included three break-out sessions during which we were able to choose specialized, topical seminars. I personally attended the seminars on permit-required confined space entry, meth lab safety awareness, and workers comp investigations & surveillance- caught on tape. All three we excellent, but my favorite was meth lab safety awareness. Amy Turner’s favorite seminar of the day was Hazardous Materials and Incidents, presented by Chief Don Bennet of the Hamilton County HAZMAT team. Some other seminars included respiratory protection, trench safety and rescue, evaluation and control of combustible dust, ladder safety, and others. Given the opportunity, I would have attended them all.
All of the students agreed that this was a great experience. Some of even us found leads for future employment! I feel like I learned a lot and got some ideas about my future career. The consensus among our group, when asked if we would attend next year’s construction safety day based on what we experienced at this one, was a big YES.

Manny Halpern, Ph.D., CPE visits as part of interdisciplinary research training...


More than 30 ERC students and faculty gathered on November 18th, for discussion with Dr. MannyHalpern, PhD, CPE, of the NYU School of Medicine and the Hospital for Joint Diseases regarding his experience in introducing ergonomics in Environment of Care .  He described the pilot project program which he discusses in his publication “From Research to practice: The application of NIOSH model ergonomic program in a healthcare setting” (Halpern, 2009). He spoke candidly about the challenges of promoting recommendations for improved ergonomics in the workplace. 
Dr. Halpern discussed process outcomes, facilitators, and potential barriers, including difficulty collecting relevant data and the limitations of OSHA logs, as opposed to lost work time data, to reflect the impact of an ergonomic program, potential employee concerns about their participation in the study, and perceived managerial constraints. He proposed incorporating recommended modifications into capital, rather than operating budgets, in order to sustain the program. Considering ergonomic recommendations in the planning and architectural phases of new and renovation construction of a healthcare facility, as a capital expenditure, results in cost savings for the organization, in reducing occupational musculoskeletal injuries and subsequent lost work time. He indicated that facility financial decision-makers would support “evidence-based architecture” as a cost-effective method of implementing ergonomic recommendations.
In addition, Dr. Halpern introduced an exciting new concept which could impact advancement of NIOSH recommendations in healthcare settings. By focusing on “healthy computing” in a pathology laboratory, he realized that an unexpected outcome of his study was the discovery that ergonomic issues impact patient safety, patient privacy, and Americans with Disabilities (ADA) compliance.   For example, the awkward and uncomfortable position in which lab technician had to enter data into the computer raised the potential for errors, which potentially impacts patient safety. He further discovered that the door to the lab was not wide enough to accommodate wheelchair access, necessitating phlebotomy being performed in the doorway of the lab blocking access to the lab and compromising patient privacy, as well as the musculoskeletal health of the lab technician, who had to perform the task in an awkward position since lighting in the doorway was poor. He concluded that conducting ergonomics in settings where the human being is the ‘work object’, such as healthcare and hospitality services, required a system approach to identify ergonomic problems. Considering the need for a systems approach, Dr. Halpern suggests that there is a need for more research to explore a potential link in healthcare work settings between ergonomic concerns related to employee safety and patient safety, patient privacy, and ADA compliance issues. Dr. Halpern further explained that, historically, NIOSH recommendations affecting patient safety elicit a more rapid response through JCAHO than OSHA enforcement of employee safety regulation. Therefore, an organization may map out those ergonomic concerns related to patient safety, which may affect also employee safety, as a strategy for more effective enforcement of ergonomic recommendations.
Dr. Halpern also toured laboratories and had discussions with students and faculty about on- going and collaborative research. He is a faculty member in the NY/NJ ERC.    
Halpern M. (2009). From research to practice: The application of NIOSH ergonomic model      
program in a healthcare setting.  Journal of the Association of Occupational Health
Professionals in Healthcare, 29, 21-24. 

Environmental Justice Tour

On September 15, University of Cincinnati students and faculty attended an Environmental Health and Justice Tour in Louisville, KY. 

Environmental justice is the union between the physical and the cultural environment.    It is the idea that all areas of our environment are important including wildlife and wetlands, urban habitats, industrial facility sites, and industrial development.  Environmental justice addresses the idea that all humans should be living in healthy environments free from pollution caused by industrial facilities. 

Participants of the tour met in West Louisville early for a welcoming speech and light breakfast.  During the opening session, speakers presented on environmental justice goals and how important it is for everyone in the community to work towards the improved health and well-being of others.  The focus of this tour was to educate all participants on the injustice occurring throughout the country involving low-income communities.  Low-income and minority communities have been a target for air, water, and land pollution.  Many industrial facilities, waste-sites, and incinerators have been built near low-income and minority communities.  These sites expose these populations to a multitude of pollutants.  The common opinion given by supporters of environmental justice is that industrial facilities build their waste-sites and incinerators in areas where the community doesn’t have a voice, meaning they are unable to make their appeal due to lack of funding and political support. 

After the opening session, participants loaded two school buses and toured industrial sites located throughout West Louisville.  A tour guide on each bus educated the participants on each site visited and the impact the sites have had on the environment and communities.  The following are some of the sites visited on the tour. Pictures of the tour can be viewed by going to the following webpage:

Gallagher Power Plant: This plant is located across the Ohio River in Indiana.  It produces enough energy for 200,000 homes.  Gallagher Power Plant predates the Clean Air Act, meaning it does not have to install scrubber systems to reduce air emissions on all of the old mechanical systems.   Because of the wind direction, most of the air emissions are blown into Kentucky.  The Jefferson County Air Pollution Control District has estimated that 8-9% of the county’s nitrogen oxides are coming from this power plant. 

Ford Automobile Assembly Plant:  This plant is no longer in production.  However, from 1925-1955 it produced over 1.6 million vehicles, including Model A’s and T’s.

Morris Forman Wastewater Treatment Plant: The plant started treating water is 1959 and is the district’s largest water treatment facility. It removes 97% of the solids from storm water and wastewater using activated sludge. Area residents have complained about the odors emitted from the plant.  Scrubbers have been installed to help reduce odors and aluminum covers are being installed over all open areas of the treatment process. 

Rubbertown began in 1918 with the construction of Standard Oil.  Two more oil refineries were constructed over the next 20 years.  It is in this area that Louisville became a center for the production of much needed rubber during World War II.  Rubber companies built in the 1940’s include National Carbide, B.F. Goodrich, Phillips Petroleum and DuPont.  This area is home to Carbide Industries, which produces acetylene (used to produce vinyl chloride), calcium carbide (an alternative energy source), and calcium hydroxide (waste by-product).  For years, the company piped the by-product, calcium hydroxide, under a small road, Bells Lane, from the plant to a 10-acre waste pile near the plant.  In 1963, the pile spilled over and covered Bells Lane and much of the company’s southern parking lot, contaminating over 75 acres of land.

 Carbide Industries

 Another chemical plant in the area, Lubrizol, has a partnership with three other companies, Zeon, OxyVinyls, and PolyOne.  All four companies share one plant and produce materials to manufacture rubber, vinyl house siding, PVC pipe, and cable insulation. Rohm and Haas has been a resident of Rubbertown since 1960.  The facility produces plastic additives used in PVC piping, house siding, and packaging. The plants in this area produce products that have been linked to fatal liver cancer in exposed workers.  This production also adds to air toxins that greatly exceed the recommendations set by the EPA.  DuPont Chemical produces Freon, vinyl chloride, and hydrochloric acid using ozone-safe, non-chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) products.  Hydrochloric acid is a by-product that the company, in the past, injected into underground wells.  Since 1992, the facility has found markets to sell their acid for beneficial use.

A combined release of over 3 million pounds of air toxins annually can be attributed to the industries in Rubbertown.  12 monitoring stations have been placed in the area and analysis has shown elevated concentrations of chemicals, which place residents at higher risk for cancer, including  1,3 Butadiene, Acroylonitrile, Formaldehyde, Perchloroethylene, Ethyl Acrylate and Benzene.

In the 1880’s African Americans in West Louisville first inhabited an area now called “Park DuValle”.  This community was built near the Rubbertown manufacturing facilities.  It is believed that African Americans were pushed into this area of Louisville because living near the manufacturing facilities was undesirable.  In the 1990’s this was a high crime area.  The city of Louisville, along with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), rebuilt the area to make it a safer area to live.  The continued focus for Park Duvalle and the surrounding neighborhoods will be reduction in the chemical emissions and cleaner air.

Lake Dreamland, another stop on our tour, began as a community of small summer cottages on the Ohio River.  The property has a small lake created by damming a tributary of the river.  With the WWII construction of the chemical plants in Rubbertown, the area was abandoned by the wealthy.  Lack of available sewage wastewater treatment led to sewage being disposed of in pits filled with rock.  Groundwater flows through the rock and ends up in the lake and river.  Due to pollution issues, the city purchased the cottages in 1987.  The cottages were sold to residents for $1 with a stipulation that the current owners will, at death, allow the land to revert to the county.

Of particular interest on the tour was the Lee’s Lane Superfund Site.  From 1940 to 1975, the site was operated as an industrial and domestic waste landfill.  The site lies in the Ohio River flood plain, which floods every year, and the waste pit is in direct contact with area groundwater.  In 1975, residents living next to the site reported “blue sheets of flame” near their water heaters.  Explosive levels of methane gas were discovered and homes were evacuated.  The state later discovered 400 drums of hazardous waste materials with more than 50 chemicals, including benzene and heavy metals.  The EPA spent $2.2 million to clean up the surface, but toxic gas venting and monitoring continue today.

 Dr. Tracey Yap (back row, 3rd from left) and University of Cincinnati nursing (Diane Busch-front row, 1st from left), and Industrial Hygiene (Amy Turner-front row, 2nd from left) students.

Sadly, the area has many issues with soil, air and water contamination along a beautiful stretch of the Ohio River.  Only with continued vigilance, activism, and remediation will the problems begin to resolve.

This tour was sponsored through the Passionist Earth and Spirit Center.   The Earth and Spirit Center serves to educate others about the sacredness of the Earth and all its’ inhabitants through spiritual practices, transformative learning opportunities, and community action. 



Eastern Kentucky Coal Mine Trip--ICG and TECO


The ICG surface mine and restoration areas and the TECO wash plant were the sites of a student and faculty visit on September 21. Don Gibson, Director of Permitting and Regulatory Affairs for ICG in Kentucky organized the visit for 14 students and three faculty members. Paul Jackson of TECO facilitated the visit to the preparation plant.
During the bus trip to Hazard, KY, students reported on topics each selected as an introduction to the group to mining. These were:
     Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)
        Job Task Analysis and Miner training     
        Training of Surface Miners
        Silica Exposure
        Accidents and Injuries   
    Mine environment
        Coal Preparation Plants
        Dust Control in Mining
        Occupational Exposure to Respirable Coal Dust
        Secretary of Labor's Advisory Committee report
        An Analysis of Job Stress in Mining
        An Oral History of Mine Emergency Response  
    Life in Coal Country
        Lost Mountain
        Coal and People
        Music of Coal 
We arrived in Hazard on Sunday, September 20, to attend the last hours of the Black Gold festival. The food and music were good. And it was nice to get off the bus!
After safety training and an introduction to wash plant technology on Monday, September 21, we toured the TECO wash plant near the center of Hazard. 13,500 tons of coal are processed hourly from the stockpile further up the mountain. The facility is operated 24/7, with one maintenance day weekly; the maintenance budget is $1.2M per month. Pictured is Shannon, one of the wash plant operators, providing details on the plant operations to the students. During our tour we learned just how important coal is to our country and Kentucky with 50% of the U.S. energy derived from coal and 92% of Kentucky energy from coal.
Long lines to get lunch indicated that we should have packed the TECO donuts! Finally we departed Hazard for the ICG Thunder Ridge surface mine in Leslie County. The trip gave a great view of hollows and steep mountain roads. Everyone agreed it would be a challenge to meet a coal truck coming down the road on a snowy day.
An ICG partnership with EKU faculty has resulted in a bee research project. The bees are healthy and the number of hives increasing. Tammy Horn, PhD, informed us that the hive population has already reached 150,000 bees! When we were there, lots of flowering plants were seen, and the bee smoke was appreciated as many came out to say ‘hello’.
Effort is devoted to introducing plants to be pollen sources for the majority of the year; the newest to be added is sour wood that blooms in the hot days of summer. In addition, evergreen, oak, and maple trees are planted during the reclamation efforts by the mine. These trees are important as they will serve as an economic product for the local population as the mining industry moves.
ICG is also a key partner in the elk restoration project. Our timing was poor, and the elk were napping in the woods. The herd has grown substantially faster than predicted in the habitat now being created through reseeding with trees and grasses. The history of regulatory requirements following mountain-top removal mining was reviewed. The difference between the autumn olive and scrub grass that could survive on the compacted surface was quite a contrast to the more natural surface that is now allowed. We tromped through the uneven surface, and found hard and softwood plantings taking root, and lots of wild flowers undoubtedly brought in by the birds.
The scale of surface mining was demonstrated as we watched operations at the face. One truck stopped so that we could stand near it, to better understand the scale, and be close to a tire that costs $30,000 each! Pictured with the students and faculty is Tyler Wright, the site’s engineer.
Comments from the trip included:
            I had no idea they are concerned with reclamation
            Before this trip, I had limited knowledge of where coal came from
            This company cares about what the community thinks
            I had not heard the positive side of mining
            Mountain top removal mining does drastically affect the landscape, but the land is returned in a more usable state 
            I was impressed with the bee and elk projects
We are indebted to Phyllis Campbell Trosper who works in the Department of Environmental Health business office for helping us contact ICG through her nephew Larry Baker who is an employee there. It was great to meet Shannon at the prep plant, and Tyler and Nate at the mine.
Some photos are shown below, and a full album can be viewed at
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