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Report states asbestos risk virtually non-existent at Clear Creek in California

PICKERINGTON, Ohio — A new scientific study states that the health risk to motorcyclists from naturally occurring asbestos at the Clear Creek Management Area, which is a popular off-highway vehicle (OHV) riding area near Hollister, Calif., is minimal, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports.

In fact, the report says that other activities are riskier than asbestos exposure while riding at Clear Creek: “Other recreational activities, such as swimming, hiking, and snow skiing are over a 100-fold more dangerous.”

The report is titled: “Preliminary Analysis of the Asbestos Exposures Associated with Motorcycle Riding and Hiking in the Clear Creek Management Area (CCMA) San Benito County, California.” It was produced by Richard Wilson of the Physics Department at Harvard University, the International Environmental Research Foundation in New York, and the Center for Applied Studies of the Environment and Earth and Environmental Sciences at the City University of New York.

Tens of thousands of acres of the CCMA have been closed to the public — including OHV riders and hikers — since May 1, 2008, because of fears over health dangers posed by naturally occurring asbestos on the land. The federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) controls the land.

The study was commissioned by the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation (OHMVR) Division of the California State Parks Department. Daphne Greene, deputy director of the OHMVR Division, said the study was undertaken “to determine if management and operational strategies could be employed at the CCMA to mitigate risk while still allowing access to this premier off-highway vehicle recreation destination.

“This report provides additional data which needs to be considered, along with the data from the [earlier] EPA report, before any final decisions are made concerning long-term recreation opportunities at the CCMA,” she said. “We look forward to continuing discussions with the BLM.”

Jim Abbott, acting BLM state director, said the bureau’s top priority has always been protecting public health and safety. The 2008 closure of the CCMA was based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s conclusion that “the asbestos exposures for recreational users at CMA were above the acceptable level of risk for public health.”

Abbott said he “welcomes the dialog” with the OHMVR Division, adding that the BLM is in the final stages of completing a long-term plan for managing the CCMA.

The OHMVR Commission will hold a hearing on April 5 at 10 a.m. at the Veterans’ Memorial Hall at 649 San Benito St. in Hollister to discuss the new Clear Creek report, among other things. Riders are encouraged to attend.

The report is available online at www.ohv.parks.ca.gov.

More information is available at www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/hollister/clear_creek_management_area.html.