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Hunters at Aberdeen Proving Ground still aren’t harvesting enough animals, according to the latest survey, but at least the ones they are taking are considered relatively safe to eat.

A study on the impact of deer hunting at Aberdeen Proving Ground drew some interest at Thursday’s meeting of the APG Restoration Advisory Board in Edgewood, as did the latest updates on the chemical perchlorate found in wells used by the city of Aberdeen to provide drinking water to city residents.

John Paul, who works in APG’s directorate of health, safety and the environment, discussed a study launched several years ago after the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry reported concerns about high lead levels in areas where deer were hunted and in the deer carcasses taken from the area.

Paul said officials studied seven sites, one of which was off-post. The deer that were studied were found to be generally safe to eat, and there did not seem to be a high correlation between the weight of the deer and lead concentration.

There is a possibility that children who eat a lot of venison could ingest some lead, he said.

“I don’t think there is a real need to go to great lengths to inform the hunters,” Paul said, although “it may be a good idea to put up signs that if you are feeding a child a lot of venison, it could endanger them with lead.”

He said results were similar to those in a study done 15 years ago, although “in the original study, arsenic came up as the main problem, rather than lead.”

Paul also said the deer herd is still too large. Hunters are killing 800 to 1,000 deer annually, but the ideal number is probably 1,500, he said.

Ruth Ann Young, an Aberdeen city councilwoman, said she wondered if the economy might drive more people to rely on hunting as a source of food.

She also suggested having some kind of notification that consuming lots of lead can pose a threat to children, “not to alarm people, but just to let them know.”

Paul said officials at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources did not think it was a problem and were “at best lukewarm” about the idea of putting out a warning about consuming too much venison.

“They are in business to promote hunting, there’s no doubt about that,” he said, adding, “They are very conservative about the issuance of warnings. They don’t like to issue advisories on things unless they are really convinced there is a problem.”

Roy Dietz, a community member, asked if anyone has also looked at lead levels in cows.

“They are eating a lot of grass,” he noted.

Paul said he guessed that cows near well-traveled highways have higher lead levels than others.

Paul Miller, an APG project officer who also does risk assessment, presented an update on the ongoing measuring of perchlorate levels in area wells.

The testing has been going on routinely, George Mercer, a spokesman for APG, said.

“We have an area on post where the city of Aberdeen has production wells to provide water for the city, and that area had been used for training” by the proving ground, Mercer said.

“When we were looking at the area in 2006, we found perchlorate had been seeping into the ground. We immediately contacted the city of Aberdeen and worked with the city” to measure the perchlorate levels, he said.

Perchlorate is derived from chemical explosions, he said. It can adversely affect pregnant women and children by affecting the body’s iodide uptake, although perchlorate has also been used as medicine to treat hyperthyroidism in adults.

Miller said APG has looked at perchlorate levels ranging from 25 to 15 micrograms per liter (or parts per billion) in its consideration for remediation.

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends pregnant women not consume more than 15 micrograms per liter of perchlorate, according to an interim health advisory issued in January.

“The highest we have ever found in a well is 25,” Miller said. Some wells in the west part of Aberdeen have also had levels higher than 15.

He said a copy of the update has been sent to Matt Lapinsky, Aberdeen’s director of public works.

Rurik Loder also presented an update on the Bush River study area and Tom DeReamer discussed the study of more than 5,000 acres of other assorted, Edgewood-region study areas.


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