News Stories about Toxic Beach Fires
Ban on burning treated wood considered
By BRIAN SEALS
SANTA CRUZ -- After finding high arsenic levels near fire rings at Twin Lakes State Beach, regional air regulators are pushing for a ban on the burning of pressure-treated wood.
While the problem was identified at Twin Lakes, the ban would apply to beach fires and the burning of pressure-treated wood across Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties. This would include backyard brush fires, fireplace fires, barbecues and even, as the air pollution district’s Ed Kendig quipped, sweat lodges.
"It’s a total ban on burning pressure-treated wood anywhere under any circumstance," Kendig said.
The Monterey Bay Regional Air Pollution Control District is scheduled to consider the ban at its September meeting. Pressure-treated wood contains arsenic and chromium that, when burned, is released into the air and into the ground.
The matter caught the attention of the air district, county environmental health and State Parks officials this spring when a citizens organization, Friends of the Harbor Group, privately tested sand around two beach fire rings at Twin Lakes Beach.
Those tests showed extremely high arsenic levels of up to 668 parts per million at one ring.
State law declares arsenic levels of 500 ppm to be a hazardous waste site. Follow-up tests by the county showed lower levels of 24 parts per million at one ring and 6.8 parts per million at another, spurring another round of tests earlier this month. That last round of testing showed astronomical arsenic levels of about 30,000 ppm, Kendig said.
Agencies confirm beach fire
rings contain deadly substance
Parts of Twin Lakes State Beach are contaminated with extremely high levels of arsenic, according to tests conducted by the local air quality agency.
Exposure to arsenic can cause a wide range of health problems, from lung irritation to certain types of cancer. Ingesting arsenic can be lethal.
Tests performed on ash and sand samples taken by the Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District show arsenic levels between 4,600 and 11,000 parts per million (ppm). Arsenic naturally occurs in soil at levels up to 40 ppm, says Steve Schneider, an environmental health program manager with the Santa Cruz County Environmental Health Services Agency. In California, arsenic levels of 500 ppm and above are considered hazardous waste.
In response to the test results, State Parks officials last week roped off two areas on Twin Lakes Beach and covered them with plastic tarps. One spot was a fire ring, the other a hole where someone had dug up the sand and burned a fire.
Friends of the Harbor Group (FOGH)—a recently formed group of citizens first raised the issue of burning CCA wood. In May, the group took samples of sand and ash from fire rings on Twin Lakes Beach where CCA wood had apparently been burned. Tests conducted by the Environmental Quality Institute at the University of North Carolina found arsenic levels of 668 ppm in the samples. The group tested the rings to counter arguments that dredge material dumped on the beach was spewing arsenic into the surrounding neighborhood.
Toxins In Beach Fire Rings
POSTED: 4:14 pm PDT July 6, 2004 UPDATED: 4:21 pm PDT July 6, 2004
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. -- Health officials in Santa Cruz confirmed Tuesday that high levels of arsenic, copper and chromium have been found at Twin Lakes Beach.
Toxic levels of the substances were found at two fire ring sites.
At one site, tests showed levels about 70,000 parts per million. At the other site, the test measured 20,000 parts per million.
Arsenic is considered toxic at just 500 parts per million.
The high levels of arsenic were first discovered by the citizens group Friends of the Harbor and confirmed by tests conducted by the Monterey Bay Regional Air Pollution Control District.
Rings Tested For Toxic Metals
POSTED: 3:42 pm PDT July 2, 2004 UPDATED: 3:53 pm PDT July 2, 2004
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. -- Testing was started Friday at several beach and campground sites with fire rings in Santa Cruz County for arsenic, chromium and other metals.
In all, five beach sites and two campground sites were tested by the Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District.
A citizens group -- Friends of the Harbor -- did its own testing in May and said it discovered high levels of arsenic next to a fire ring on Twin Lakes Beach. That caught the attention of state and local officials.
"The level of arsenic in the sand that would be considered hazardous waste is 500 parts per million ... that's fairly concentrated. If we find places where there has been pressure treated wood recently the numbers should be well above that," MBUAPCD spokesman Ed Kendig said.
Health officials will test beaches
By BRIAN SEALS
SANTA CRUZ — Watch what you burn at the beach.
That’s the advice of health officials who are concerned about burning pressure-treated wood in beach fires and campfires.
Today, officials with the Monterey Bay Regional Air Pollution Control District are expected to begin testing the sand around fire rings at state beaches for arsenic, chromium and other metals. The effort is in conjunction with the state Department of Parks and Recreation and the county Environmental Health Department.
"We are probably, regardless of the results, going to be doing some kind of public education," said Dave Vincent, State Parks superintendent for the Santa Cruz district. "It (burning pressure-treated wood) is not good for your health."
The matter caught the attention of State Parks and health officials after a citizens group, Friends of the Harbor Group, did its own testing in May and found high levels of arsenic next to a ring on Twin Lakes Beach.
Arsenic is a known carcinogen.
That group’s testing was done by the Environmental Quality Institute at the University of North Carolina-Asheville. It found arsenic levels of 668 parts per million next to one fire ring the morning after a bonfire. The pressure-treated wood was visible, said Lorenzo Rota of the harbor group.
In the search for bonfire fuel, partygoers headed to the beaches of Santa Cruz may have unwittingly put themselves, and the local environment, in grave danger by burning pressure-treated wood. Now an investigation is underway to see if beachgoers are at risk at beaches all around the Monterey Bay.
Prompted by a local controversy over dredging, a Santa Cruz activist took a soil sample at a fire ring near the city harbor a few weeks ago, according to Ed Kendig, the compliance officer for the Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution District. The citizen had it analyzed and the sample was found to contain a high amount of arsenic, which is used as a protectant in pressure-treated wood.
READ the Complete Newsbrief Scroll down to Toxic Bonfires Investigated
Tests indicate that pressurized
wood burned in bonfires are contaminating beaches
bonfire—it´s a California tradition. It could also be an unhealthy one,
according to tests recently conducted on material from a beach fire ring
in Santa Cruz.
In the tests, pieces of partly burned copper chromated arsenate (CCA), or pressurized, wood and surrounding ash were found to contain unsafe levels of arsenic and chromium, two metals that, in large amounts, are extremely toxic to humans and particularly children. The wood and ash was taken from a fire ring at twin Lakes Beach in April. The tests were ordered by private citizens of the newly formed Friends of the Harbor Group (FOHG) and conducted by the Environmental Quality Institute at the University of North Carolina.
Testing Of Sand At Twin Lakes State Beach Reveals High Levels Of Arsenic And Chromium Resulting From Burning Of CCA Treated Wood In Beach Fire Rings
Santa Cruz, CA (May 11, 2004) – Test results released today of a sand sample taken adjacent to one of the eleven fire rings at Twin Lakes State Beach, located at E. Cliff Drive & 7th Avenue, reported arsenic levels of 668 parts per million and chromium levels of 1087 parts per million. The Friends of the Harbor Group (www.fohg.org) announced that these tests, performed by the Environmental Quality Institute at the University Of North Carolina – Asheville, confirms the physical evidence found of the burning of CCA (copper chromated arsenate) treated wood by some beach-goers in the concrete fire rings and other beach burn sites.
READ the Entire Press Release in PDF format.
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