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Red Rock Road
Red Rock Road

EHAP learned of Red Rock Road while investigating the health risks for residents living at Bonanza mine, located six miles east of Sutherlin.

When EHAP became aware that waste from the mine, also called mine tailings, was used in the construction of Red Rock Road, it was determined that an additional assessment was needed to evaluate the health risks related to the road.

Red Rock Road, also known by some residents as "Red Road," is a 17-mile long railroad grade starting in the town of Sutherlin and extending east. The road is not continuous and there are sections of the road that are fenced off, overgrown with vegetation and not accessible to the public. However, there are several sections of the road used for recreation, as a driveway, or as a route of access to other property and either the original tailings are exposed or are barely covered by gravel and light vegetation.

What did EHAP find in its evaluation?

The purpose of EHAP's evaluation was to determine the public health implications of exposure to arsenic and mercury from Red Rock Road. Specifically, EHAP focused on how exposure might affect the health of residents, both adults and children, living near the road and of those who use the road recreationally.

EHAP concluded that long-term exposure to arsenic-contaminated soil at Red Rock Road may occur at levels that pose a health concern. Specifically, the accidental swallowing of arsenic-contaminated soil over a long period of time is of concern. Children who live next to or play on the road may be at higher risk for cancer and non-cancer health effects. Adults who live on or near the road or use it recreationally may be at a higher risk for cancer. Although there is an increased risk, it does not necessarily mean that people in the area will become sick, unless very large amounts of the contaminated soil were swallowed.

What does EHAP recommend?

In order to reduce residents' risk of potential health effects from long-term exposure to arsenic, EHAP recommends that:

  • Remediation and/or capping technologies be used along Red Rock Road where tailings are exposed at the surface, or where capping is wearing away.
  • Residents avoid the areas of the road where tailings are exposed at the surface until those areas are adequately covered or cleaned up.

EHAP's report also makes a recommendation for Sutherlin area residents who drink from private wells. In the process of this investigation, EHAP learned that testing done in the 1970's found high levels of arsenic insome private wells in the Sutherlin area.

EHAP evaluated these data in a separate report (see the Sutherlin site investigation details), and would like residents to be aware of this information. EHAP recommends that well-owners in the Sutherlin area test their private wells for arsenic. Sutherlin area residents may contact Terry Westfall, Environmental Health Specialist at the Douglas County Health Department (541-440-3569) or the EHAP Program (1-877-290-6767) if they want to know more about testing or have other questions about their well safety.

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