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Officials downplay health risks at West Hills County Park

Hundreds of truckloads of "acutely hazardous and hazardous" material were dumped at Sweet Hills Riding Center, a horse stable in Melville located inside West Hills County Park in Huntington Town, said Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016. (Credit: News 12 Long Island)

People who visited a horse-riding center at a Suffolk County park where authorities say hazardous materials were dumped do not face health risks that require immediate testing, health officials said Friday.

That is the conclusion reached by the state Department of Health and Northwell Health Occupational and Environmental Specialists of Long Island after conducting analyses at West Hills County Park.

“Their evaluation was that the contaminant levels in the samples were similar to soil levels seen in many residential areas,” Suffolk Health Commissioner Dr. James L. Tomarken said Friday night.

“Just the mere presence of those compounds does not make them health risks,” he said.

The kind of exposure that can harm human health varies with each contaminant, how long the exposure lasts and what form it takes, he said.

Tomarken said he wanted to reassure the public after the health department was “flooded” with calls from people who feared their visits to the park had imperiled their health.

The truckloads of “acutely hazardous” debris dumped two months ago at the park were found to have levels of contamination greater than that found in previous dumping at a Brentwood park, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said Thursday.

The contaminants found at Sweet Hills include pesticides, semi-volatile organic compounds, asbestos and metals, at an average depth of 3.5 feet.

Tomarken said the asbestos found is solid and not “friable,” meaning it cannot be pulverized by hand.

Asbestos that can be crumpled in a fist can cause asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma if the fibers that are released are inhaled.

Tomarken said his department followed its customary routine in sampling the soil in question, as requested by Suffolk prosecutors.

Samples were sent to an independent lab, which produced the data reviewed by the health department and Northwell.

“We will continue to advise people as to if they need more information about this situation,” Tomarken said.

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