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The devil's details: Kelly AFB, corn tortillas, and sick Leon fish

Greg Harman

Remember all that stuff about bad tortillas explaining away high cancer rates in South San Antonio? Bad mistake. Strike it; reverse it. While a follow-up study of liver cancer and aflatoxin bacteria across three San Antonio zip codes is pending publication, it's no longer being considered relevant to addressing public concerns of contamination in the Kelly community, says Kyle Cunningham, program manager at the City's Public Center for Environmental Health.

Though once suggested as a contributor to the range of health problems plaguing residents living near the old Kelly AFB, the fear of killer tortillas are now a matter for national digestion.

“That's a bigger question and almost a totally different question from Kelly,” Cunningham said. “It's a different thing. It's not really a Kelly thing. It's more diet and are we testing our corn products as rigorously as we should.”

At Metro Health's meeting next week, City staffers are focusing on the results of their study of toxic chemicals in the various waterways inside the San Antonio River's watershed. For the first time, residents will be able to compare Leon Creek's laundry list of industrial toxins with the muck lining the Salado, Calaveras, and Elm creeks, for instance.

Jennifer Wilson of the U.S. Geological Survey will present the findings from a sediment study from 6 to 8 pm, Tuesday, August 3, at the Cuellar Community Center, 5626 San Fernando.

The work of the USGS, Metro's Public Center for Environmental Health, and the San Antonio River Authority, was delayed because of last year's drought conditions, Cunningham said.

The study itself still won't be available at the meeting; it won't be officially released until September. However, Wilson will be sharing significant elements of it next week.

The Air Force canceled funding for the City's continued water sampling along Leon Creek a couple years ago. That didn't stop the creek from getting sicker and the fishing advisory from being expanded as Metro Health set to work testing creek mud. And yet the data should be supremely illuminating.

“What this does is give us more of a total picture,” Cunningham said. “Before we just had Lower Leon Creek to look at, but nothing to compare it to. This gives us a comparison.”

The meeting will be followed by at least two others in late August and September. Possible topics include air quality and public health and a history of PCEH studies in the community.

Those in the Kelly area are reminded that while probable pathways of exposure to Kelly's contaminated groundwater plume were linked to old water wells (since plugged) and through possible vapor intrusion, the fruit and nuts sampled all came up clean. So, by all means, don't waste those pecans this fall. Bake your pies and send them to family members not already immune-system compromised by the stress of living a (possibly) military-grade-toxic lifestyle.

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