Translation Efforts Beyond the Laboratory: UA SBRP goes 1 - 1 with Local Citizens

On April 24, 2006 UA SBRP investigators, A. Jay Gandolfi, Raina Maier and Janick Artiola presented health information and discussed the proposed Bureau of Land Management (BLM) remediation strategies regarding arsenic and lead contaminated mine tailings to members neighboring the Saginaw Hill mine tailings site.  The meeting was held in the evening at the Tucson-Pima Mission Branch Public Library and was attended by 20 concerned residents of this southwest - side Tucson community. The abandoned mine site, now under the management of the BLM, is a 540-acre parcel of land, which is approximately 13 miles east of the University of Arizona Campus. Mining activities, that left several piles of highly contaminated As and Pb mine wastes, contaminated sediments, and physical hazards, took place from the 1800s through the mid 1900s. Although portions of the site are fenced, recently all the mineshafts and exploratory holes were filled to minimize hazards to trespassers and wildlife. However, highly contaminated mine tailings remain at the site that are vulnerable to wind and water erosion. In December of 2005 Saginaw Hill community representatives contacted the UA SBRP for assistance in interpreting the site environmental assessment report and the potential health risks from site dust containing elevated heavy metals. In response, the UA SBRP Research Translation Core facilitated a series of interactions with active community members, which directly led to the Community Health Information meeting hosted by the UA SBRP and Saginaw Hill Response Committee.

The SBRP team began with a presentation entitled “Health Information about Arsenic and Lead” that provided the community with the following information:

  • Background knowledge regarding the natural and anthropogenic occurrence of arsenic and lead in the environment
  • Arsenic and lead exposure levels
  • Possible health effects due to exposure
  • Review of Saginaw Hill remediation alternatives
  • UA SBRP analysis and suggestions

The presentation was followed by a lively question and answer session that showed the community was clearly engaged and appreciative of the information they were receiving.The SBRP has also been active in communicating with BLM.  Recently, UA SBRP representatives, Drs. Maier and Artiola, Mónica Ramírez and Denise Moreno toured Saginaw Hill with a BLM Geologist and Site Manager. This opportunity allowed the BLM and UA SBRP to discuss the site’s condition, assessment methodology and how best to address the community’s exposure concerns as the remedial action for the site moves forward.The UA SBRP will continue to act as a mediator between the BLM and Saginaw Hill community, to educate the community and communicate issues of concern to both parties.