Susan Worgaftik of the Lunt Neighborhood Action Group and Health Director Jennifer Hoffman discuss an application for a three-year, $150,000 grant for an epidemiological study of the neighborhood surrounding the former Lunt Silversmiths site.
Episode includes a Municipal Minute on dog licenses.
(OPENS WITH MUSIC)
MAYOR: Good morning everyone. This morning. I have Susan Worgaftik and Jennifer Hoffman with me and they are going to talk to us about a collaborative grant that we're working on together with regard to the Lunt property. I don't know as much about it as either one of these people do, some probably gonna ask a couple of questions and then sit back and listen.
Susan came to Jennifer and to myself a month or so ago and said that she and the-- Is it the PIP group or is it?
SUSAN WORGAFTIK: It's the Lunt Neighborhood Action Group that is actually the applicant.
MAYOR: That's right. I forget the name of that group-- the Lunt Neighborhood Action Group who want to, or have, applied for a grant or are about to send the grant in.
SUSAN WORGAFTIK: About to. About to.
MAYOR: Yeah... With regard to an epidemiological-- should have practiced that a lot before I got in front of the mic... Anyway, study of the neighborhood and the potential for some of the carcinogens that have been part of the Lunt property for many, many years now to see if if there's any correlation with certain cancers that have been in the neighborhood and also they might have been affected by the chemicals.
So did I more or less get that right Susan? Otherwise, why don't you just tell us what it is you're doing.
SUSAN WORGAFTIK: Well, let me go back a little bit. People in the neighborhood, and I'm a resident of the Lunt neighborhood, came together because we were concerned about whether the cleanup of the Lunt property had been done accurately and we've still got questions about that, but we wanted to move forward on dealing with what's happening to the residents of the property of the community as well.
And one of the things that we found, was that there, we did a door-to-door study of just a few houses... These were houses that were getting tested for air quality, and found that we, we knew of two people on the same street who had Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and two people who have Parkinson's disease-- both Parkinson's and Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma can be engendered by TCE, which is the chemical that we're most concerned about.
And we said we have to find out if there are other possibilities here, other people who might be connected to those diseases or other diseases that TCE could engender. Because the issue is we want to make sure that everyone gets tested and gets helped if they need help. Because for instance I am one of the people with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. I didn't know I had. It came from a routine test, and so these are diseases that can creep up on you, and suddenly you're very sick. So we want to see if we can help with that.
MAYOR: Great and Jennifer. What is the role of the health department in this as you understand it?
JENNIFER HOFFMAN: So the role of the Health Department is basically where public health, so we look at the public at large's health. So we are concerned that if there is some type of substance that can be causing any type of disease to the public we have to do our due diligence and investigate. And it wouldn't just be these people that are getting air tested. It would be a bigger cohort of people just to see if the surrounding areas are being affected.
MAYOR: Do we know how many people we're going to be contacting?
SUSAN WORGAFTIK: Not yet.
MAYOR: I should know.
SUSAN WORGAFTIK: Yeah.
MAYOR: We should all know probably.
SUSAN WORGAFTIK: Not yet. One of the things that the Lunt Neighborhood Action Group is doing is, we have hired our own site inspector who is going to look at where the flow of the effluent from the Lunt property is going. And based on that, we will make a decision on where we need to talk to people. We believe the flow is going south, which means anything from Kenwood Street on south is going to be where we're going to be considering the work, but we don't know that specifically yet, but we're guessing that we're talking about 300 households-- something like that.
MAYOR: Okay? Okay. And Jennifer, I believe you are putting a couple of staff people on this program because they have expertise in epidemiology?
JENNIFER HOFFMAN: So yes, John Sullivan, or if he goes by Jack, he has been working with the Health Department through our COVID-19 contact tracing grant and he's been doing all the statistics that we need to follow disease with COVID as well as influenza and any other diseases we have. He's very good at breaking down information and trying to really focus on what is the cause and appropriate statistics. I also have a couple of graduate students that are doing their capstones with me.
And one of them, Ms. Jennifer Siegel is very excited to work on this project and we are already in discussions of surveys and how we're going to go about interviewing people. As for the interview process, I just wanted to say something that Susan was mentioning. Even though we want to focus on how the water flow is going southward, it's still important to look at the whole periphery of the property, because what you do then is just have blinders on and you're focusing on what you want to find, not what is really happening in the periphery. So, even if we're going to look southward and even if that's where the TCE's questionably flowing we still have to do the periphery of the home. So it would be more than 300 homes. So we do appropriate research.
MAYOR: Oh, okay. So I'm thinking of a periphery could be pretty large might even include my end of the world, but which is Hastings Street, but up the other direction going east, but that might include the Norwood and Davis and Kenwood...
JENNIFER HOFFMAN: We'd have to do our due diligence.
MAYOR: What is it you hope to accomplish with this? Is there an outcome, knowing the information that's going to be good.... There's no problem with that at all. Anything that we can learn to help improve the health of certainly the people living in that area, but all over Greenfield is a good thing, but is there a goal that you have at the end of this that the grant may also be helping with?
SUSAN WORGAFTIK: Yeah. Well, one of the things we want to do is, once we have the information we're going to do some general educational information to people who have been involved in the study or and the general community at large so that they understand what's positive, what's negative, where we need to work. But above and beyond that those households that are concerned about a particular a health issue in the household or a neighborhood, we're going to have small group meetings where we'll do education with the community. And then after that if there are people who are concerned and want to get themselves tested, we are going to help with the co-payments for their getting themselves tested. So we're going to try to make it as much as possible something that is not a burden on people who need to find out what what's happening with their own bodies.
MAYOR: Good. Good. So I think I've neglected to ask, what is the dollar amount of the grant and what is the timeline?
SUSAN WORGAFTIK: The dollar amount of the grant is $150,000 over three years. And the timeline will be that we will learn whether we've gotten this grant sometime in October, and the grant would actually start November 1st.
MAYOR: Oh, okay. Good good. So that's not... That's within 2023 there. So that's good. Jennifer, do you have any insight in to how they might go about doing their work? I don't know anything about doing an epidemiological study.
JENNIFER HOFFMAN: Well one, we have to focus on the scope of the research and it's gonna be in depth because we have to find out with everyone that's going to be involved in this study, how long they live there, where else they may have lived, what professions they've had, their family history. We may have to pull files that are equivalent to looking at their medical history with their permission, obviously, so it's going to be in depth. And then once we have that background information, then we could focus in and we could see: Were there certain professions that led to this? Was there a family history that led to this? Is it just the Lunt property?
So we're looking. At least the Health Department, and the goal of the Health Department is definitely to keep our blinders off and have a wide scope of what are we looking for and finding out the answers to multiple questions.
MAYOR: Is there a deadline on when the grant?
SUSAN WORGAFTIK: It's a three-year grant.
MAYOR: It's a three-year Grant.
SUSAN WORGAFTIK: So it would be 2026, October.
MAYOR: Yeah. So you would be... Do you have a timeline on the study? Is it going to be ongoing all three years or you doing a year study, and then maybe examination of the information after that and then public education?
SUSAN WORGAFTIK: It'll be phased in, but what we're looking at is certainly the first year is going to be gathering information and trying to analyze that information. That probably will go into the second year somewhat. We you know, we, it's all very new to us. I mean, I'm certainly not a scientist. So I'm looking to Jennifer and other people to, to help us with this. And then after that, we will do the community education work and the personal testing that people want to do. I think one of the things that's important is that we expect to abide by all HIPAA rules, so everybody's health information is going to be protected.
We recognize this is a burden on people and we're going to be trying to give people some gift certificates to assist us with the study, because we know that this will take time. And that we want to you know, won't be a big reward, but it'll be a reward that we hope to provide.
MAYOR: Okay, good, and you were right on track with what I was a little bit concerned about and that is, of course patient, privacy, but we can talk about that when we get back it is time for a break.
(MUNICIPAL MINUTE - OPENS WITH MUSIC)
Attention dog owners!
All pups six months or older living in the City of Greenfield must be licensed each year, and the annual dog license renewals were due by March 31st, 2023. Did you miss that deadline? Dog gone it! No need to roll over. You can still register your furry friend. Dog licenses are still available at the City Clerk's Office, in person, by mail, and online. Learn more at greenfield-ma.gov. Open office hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
You are required to provide a valid rabies certificate when licensing your pooch... We won't hound you, but starting June 1st, renewals will be assessed a late fee of $25 per dog, in addition to the license fee-- so fetch yours soon!
(CLOSES WITH MUSIC)
MAYOR: Yes. Hello. Back again. We were talking a bit about HIPAA, for those who don't know what that is, I've forgotten myself, but it is the acronym stands for.
JENNIFER HOFFMAN: Health Information Privacy and Portability Act.
MAYOR: That's right. So that is the vehicle through which all medical information is kept private, unless it has been released by the patient themselves. I think that's a very rough way or shortened version of HIPAA. But many, many providers have to abide by HIPPA. My husband's a neuromuscular massage therapist. It doesn't particularly deal with disease, but he is bound by HIPPA as well. So it cuts across all medical professions.
So do you envision that as being a problem, Director Hoffman, or do you just see it as getting people's buy-in-- some will, some won't?
JENNIFER HOFFMAN: Agreed. The Health Department in general, we do have to get HIPAA waivers from everybody involved. That's giving us information. However, as people may know from COVID, and our response, when people say "I have privacy I don't have to give you that information," working in a health department, if we are asking for information, we are allowed to have that information, since we're looking at public safety. This is different, because it's not really a communicable disease we're worried about. This is a more focal disease. So we're not going to say you have to do it. This is going to be more voluntary. Do I feel that people are going to be hesitant? I think right down the middle. I think there's a lot of people in Greenfield that whole tight to their privacy, and we respect that, and then there's some people that want to have information and will comply. So, I'm excited to see.
MAYOR: We talked about scope earlier. You mentioned scope as being sort of the main driver of this. In other words, how big? How far? How how many people, so forth, and so on, and I am still having a little trouble wrapping my head around that, because as you said, Susan, your group believes that, and your LSP will probably look at that, and maybe give you some determinations, but that the flow is south but so would that mean that if somebody from North Greenfield wanted to participate in this study, they probably would be asked to take a back seat to somebody who may be more appropriately situated to be a member of the study?
SUSAN WORGAFTIK: I think we're going to be somewhat limited in what we can do, just because the funds were not are not there. So on that basis, I think it would be depend on how far outside of the Lunt area somebody lived. So if we have someone on Leyden Road, chances are pretty good we're not going to involve them. If it's someone who is on Cleveland Street, that would might be a likely place. So it's really going to depend on where they are situated in relation to this contamination. While we understand that people may have illness that has occurred, not because of the contamination, that's what we're concentrating on-- is is there a relationship here? And so, we have to look at that.
MAYOR: Okay. So that means then as part of your scope you might define an aread and come to some agreement with the neighborhood group as to whether this is adequate or not. And whether they'd like to see information from some other some other sectors.
SUSAN WORGAFTIK: Exactly. And I should also mention that they're also is going to be statistical information... There's the state Cancer Registry and some other places that give us data that is generalized data, but may also point us in directions, that you know may say, you know, there's a cluster over here, and it's two blocks down, or three blocks down, and we may say, "Oh, okay. We should really probably look at that then.
MAYOR: Okay. Yeah. Well, we've certainly had our share of cancer and our family. My mother, my husband, and I think it's really important that we get as much information as we can, certainly given the extent of what we know the pollution has been there. Now, just to make people feel a little bit better, the mitigation of that pollution at the Lunt property has been ongoing for several years, but we're still at that point where we're just not quite sure yet whether that mitigation has been adequate enough, or do we need to keep going. So all parties involved-- the City, the neighborhood group, the DEP continue to work on that. We're not quite there yet. We don't have all the information. So this will be helpful-- I'm pretty sure.
And if you want to comment on that or not, Susan, as a member of the group.
SUSAN WORGAFTIK: We're looking. We're looking at a lot of things. I know the City has been doing work on this, but part of the reason that we decided to ask the state for funding to be able to get an independent LSP, was to have another opinion. You know, just like, you know, you go into a doctor and you're not quite sure the doctor's giving you everything, you go in and get a second opinion. And so what we're looking at is trying to figure out exactly where we're going, what we're doing, and why it's important and we don't have all that information yet, and I imagine it's going to grow over time. So we will have the work from the LSP that will be have for the Lunt Neighborhood Action Group that will be coming during the period actually from April, probably until sometime in the summer, and then that will feed into what we need for the grant, if we get the grant. So, it actually, the timing is actually very good.
MAYOR: Okay. That was good. That was, that was a question. I didn't know if your LSP had started yet or kind of where you're at on that.
SUSAN WORGAFTIK: The state has been very slow at getting the final pieces of the contract done. But we expect to have that this week.
MAYOR: Oh, yes. They want everything today, but when the shoe's on the other foot, it doesn't always come as quickly as you want it to.
SUSAN WORGAFTIK: Exactly.
MAYOR: That's just the nature of the beast. Then remind me again, Where's this grant coming from?
SUSAN WORGAFTIK: The grant that we are asking for is coming from the EPA and in a special collaborative program that they have that is involves community organizations And they have special set asides for rural areas, which we qualify for, and also around health. And so we have... We're hoping that we have a pretty good shot at this. We don't know for sure of course, but judging from the discussions that I've been in with EPA people, I think that we are in the running.
MAYOR: Well, that's good. That's good to hear. Jennifer, do you have something to add that might have come up with regard to the study? I'm thinking maybe with regard to your graduate students and how they want to proceed. What is their time frame? I don't know if how long they're with you. How will this play out that you see?
JENNIFER HOFFMAN: Her actual academic calendar is till June, but she agreed to stay onward, because she feels it's really good project, and we talked about it in detail, and she's really excited to work on this and she also feels that it has a little bit of what she's looking into and investigative type of work. So it will really give her a lot of experience, very early on.
MAYOR: That's wonderful. That's wonderful to hear. Is there compensation being provided?
SUSAN WORGAFTIK: Yes. Yes. I mean that's what the grant is going for. The grant will go primarily into salary for Jennifer, and one for Jack, and then there are a few other things. We have an organization called Slingshot, which is formally was a Toxics Action Group, which is going to help us with the educational piece-- both developing the program and also working with helping us, if we need experts to come in who those experts might be that kind of thing. But most of the money is going, to be going to the actual work of the study and the follow-up.
MAYOR: Oh that's good to know. That's good to know. So the piece about people who may have come up in the study as potentially targets of, or their cancers have resulted potentially from-- more than potentially-- a greater percentage of it maybe from living where they live amidst this pollution, what is the piece of the grant that will fund testing for them? Are we talking just your basic cancer screenings for specific types of cancer?
SUSAN WORGAFTIK: What we're talking about is providing the money for their co-pays. So what we're trying to do is encourage people to say, "Well, I'm not going to spend $40 to go in to find out something that I really don't need-- or don't want to hear." So, it's like by giving this thing to them, you know, if you go in, we will cover that cost, it will be an encouragement for people to actually get the testing done.
JENNIFER HOFFMAN: And Valley Medical Group... I reached out to Gina Campbell from Valley Medical Group and they're agreeing to work with us and if people do need testing they would be available to assist us.
MAYOR: Oh, that's great. That's great. I know that most people don't go to their doctor and say, "I want to be tested for this, that, and the other cancers." I mean, I as a result of my mother passing away with breast cancer at the age of 67, when I was in my 40s, I have never not had a mammogram. That's a cancer screening that I will not miss, and I readily want it to happen. But, a lot of times people, as you said and I don't know if you want to talk about your experience, but it never occurred to you until you went to the doctor for something.
SUSAN WORGAFTIK: Right. The lymphoma that I and my neighbor had showed up in our guts. And, I had a routine colonoscopy. It was supposed to be because I'm old, my last colonoscopy. And has not played true, but they found a polyp that was probably about a quarter of an inch.
MAYOR: Oh, wow.
SUSAN WORGAFTIK: It was very small, very small, and it was filled with white blood cells, and they were very surprised, and it was tested and found that it could be on Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. So what happens now is, I've, I've had another colonoscopy, which has been clean, and I have a blood test every year, and I still have a couple more years to go on that regimen. I will have one more colonoscopy and that I hope will be my last one. But, the idea is that regimen... It's not something... I was not feeling sick... It was not something I was concerned about, and it's also wasn't colon cancer. It was lymphoma, which is in your blood. So it's the kind of thing that you may not have any idea that you're sick. And so it's something that we we do want to encourage people who are concerned about that to go get a blood test, you know and see what what the blood test tells you.
MAYOR: Well, this is, this is why the study is so important then, because most of us do go through our lives not really thinking that we have cancer. Same thing, I won't go into the whole story, but it's very similar to my husband's cancer. He went in to talk to an ENT about getting polyps removed, and in the course of the conversation, she was doing whatever the examination is that she does, and he mentioned a lump on the side of his throat. Well, it turns out that was cancer at the base of his tongue, which they didn't find until they removed the tonsils which she said, "Well, maybe we need to get your tonsils out so we can see what's going on."
So most people get their tonsils out when they're children, but he did not, so it's all the more reason why this particular study is important-- because if people do show up on that spectrum of people that could have some lasting effects from exposure to the chemicals, and they're gonna know and hopefully they'll take the corrective action and get tested and this is a great way to encourage them to do that.
SUSAN WORGAFTIK: Absolutely. And also that this will... We're hoping to move forward to get whatever testing that needs to be done on the site, to be done as quickly as possible and as fully as possible, because for instance, there's six children who live next door to me, and we want to make sure that they do not get sick. And so that's all part of the process.
MAYOR: Sure. Now, before we wrap this up, that reminds me to ask you, What age are cohort are you looking at? Are you going to be doing children of families that live in the neighborhood as well? That might be a Jennifer question. I don't know.
JENNIFER HOFFMAN: I think that everyone that lives in the community... Well, in that area, should be looked into for different things. There's different pediatric ailments that can happen and could arise, and there's certain things that affect older people, middle-aged people. I think that we should have the scope, you know, localized but broad to just focus on what we see. And there, and through the study and through research will find what age groups are not significant versus the ones that are and why.
MAYOR: Well great, and thank you both for coming in and joining me today at the Mayor's Roundtable and giving us all this great information. I look forward to that study getting started.
SUSAN WORGAFTIK: Thank you.
JENNIFER HOFFMAN: Thank you.
MAYOR: You can find the Mayor's Roundtable on the City website or wherever you get your podcasts, so please join us for another podcast next month.
(CLOSES WITH MUSIC)