MIDLOTHIAN — The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry held an open house Monday afternoon followed by an evening meeting at the Midlothian Conference Center to review a public health response plan and answer questions regarding the plan.

Nancy Ingram, community involvement lead for the Texas Department of Health Services, said the format of the meeting would allow members of the community to hear scientists discuss the response plan and direct questions to those experts regarding those presentations.

“It is an opportunity to provide information to the community regarding the draft of the public health response plan,” said Jennifer Lyke, Midlothian leader and public health advisor for ATSDR. “We would like for them (the community) to listen and take in the information and then to hopefully answer some of their questions.”

The public health response plan outlines steps for addressing community concerns and questions that have been raised regarding Midlothian air quality.

This is an emotional issue for many residents and the organization, which is a sister agency to the Centers for Disease Control, has worked for several months to gather environmental data, look at resident’s concerns and determine the best approach to respond, said Lyke. The purpose of ATSDR is to evaluate chemical contaminantss and the impact to people.

‘This is not a final solution but hopefully it is one of the steps to get to a solution,” Lyke said.

At this time the agencies are not affirming the presence of contaminants. The ATSDR became involved in the environmental quality issue in 2005 after it received a petition from more than 300 residents voicing concerns. The decision was made to look at the issue in a more comprehensive way including animal health issues that had not been addressed.

“We evaluate the possible public health exposure to environmental contaminants,” Lyke said. “There are no definitive answers at this point.”

The agency surveyed 100 Midlothian residents in July 2009 to be sure the information compiled included a diverse population.

“ATSDR is taking a very serious approach and has dedicated a large number of staff to look at this,” she said. “We have a commitment at a very high level.”

Lyke said it is difficult to pull all the pieces together. The goal of Monday’s meeting was to gather community input so the agency has the best information to respond to concerns and develop communication for ongoing dialogue.

To review the public health response plan, visit  http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/sites/midlothian/whats_new.html.

For more information, contact Jennifer Lyke, Midlothian team leader, at jlyke@cdc.gov or contact Nancy Ingram, community involvement lead, at epitox@dshs.state.tx.us.

The deadline for public comments is March 19.

Contact Rebecca at rebecca.hertz@wninews.com or 469-517-1451.