BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Erie County Health Department is addressing health concerns related to the Bethlehem Steel fire in Lackawanna.
The top recommendation is avoiding smoke as much as possible, says Gale Burstein, Erie County Health Commissioner. That smoke was blown by the wind to the south away from the plant complex and towards Hamburg and other Southtowns.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) released a statement on efforts to address the issue of smoke inhalation due to the steel mill fire.
“(The) DEC along with the Office of Fire Prevention and Control are leading air quality monitoring efforts with other agencies which will continue over night and into the morning as efforts continue to extinguish the fire. DEC is providing support and technical assistance to local officials in reviewing the data generated and working with them to determine appropriate steps to protect public health and the environment. DEC personnel have also deployed booms in surrounding waterways to collect ash and other particulates deposited throughout the area and we are identifying appropriate contractors to assist in any cleanup efforts needed”
Smoke can contain many chemicals, according to the health department, that can cause eye irritation, nose and throat irritation, nausea, headaches, reduced alertness and it can aggravate heart conditions. Smoke's particulate matter can also make the effects of asthma worse, the health department says.
Erie County Emergency Services says its hazardous materials unit along with those from the Buffalo Fire Department, State DEC and other agencies were assisting in monitoring the air at a dozen locations like Southwestern Boulevard and schools near Hamburg.
Several experts from the EPA are taking tests of particulate matter in the area. Erie County Hazmat also set up air sampling sites in Hamburg while conducting routine air sampling in areas downwind of the fire.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz told reporters that to this point they are not detecting any toxic or increased levels of materials in the air.
Burstein also said that the Erie County Water Authority reports no impact to water supply or quality due to the fire.