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Clyde Cancer Cluster lawsuit pushed, pushed back

Tom Jackson • Apr 9, 2013 at 7:41 AM

Attorney Alan Mortensen, of Salt Lake City, is representing seven families affected by the Clyde Cancer Cluster.

Mortensen said he has asked the U.S. EPA and Ohio EPA to carry out more tests and to weigh in on the significance of the results. His firm has hired chemists, epidemiologists and toxicologists in an attempt to make sense of the results.

“We don’t want to rush to judgment,” he said.

Noting a lawsuit has now been filed in the cancer cluster case, Mortensen said he wants to proceed carefully, to avoid misusing the results from the the initial tests his law firm conducted.

Dust samples were taken in six Clyde homes in an effort to find airborne particulates that might include cancer-causing substances.

A lawsuit is possible in the future if the cause of the cancers can be established, Mortensen said.

On March 28, Tim Lagrou, of Fremont, filed a lawsuit linking PCBs at the former Whirlpool Park to the cancer that killed his wife, Christina Lagrou.

Mortensen has suggested the lawsuit may be premature, but he also said he doesn’t know what additional information may have been obtained by Albrechta & Coble, the law firm that filed suit.

Warren Brown, father of Alexa Brown — an 11-year-old Sandusky County girl who died of cancer — also spoke at the press conference, where he criticized the Albrechta & Coble lawsuit.

Brown alleged that people seeking “the almighty dollar” to ease their loss have pressed the lawsuit.

“They have filed suit prematurely and opportunistically,” Brown said, noting that he’s speaking for himself and not necessarily for other families involved in the cancer cluster.

Attorneys at Albrechta & Coble could not immediately be reached for comment, but an employee said the firm will issue a response to the criticism soon.

The Clyde Cancer Cluster involves the deaths of at least four young people, as well as up to 40 others who were stricken by the disease. 

In other developments:  

• Mortensen said tests of samples taken from Clyde’s water treatment plant did not show anything significant, and he got good cooperation from Clyde municipal officials when those tests were carried out. “They were a pleasure to work with,” he said.

• New tests for contaminants at the former Whirlpool Park has not begun yet, but are still expected to begin soon, said Thomas Bowlus, a Fremont attorney who represents the Abdoo family, the current owners of the former Whirlpool property.

Last year, initial U.S EPA tests found PCBs and other possibly toxic substances. Whirlpool has promised to carry out further tests, and details are being worked out under the supervision of U.S. EPA officials. 

Bowlus said he has quit making predictions of when testing will begin because he had thought tests would have begun by now. He said it’s possible tests could begin in the next three to four weeks. A written plan for the testing has taken longer to produce than expected, he explained. U.S. EPA officials are pushing hard for tests to begin, he said.

“They wanted it to have been started already,” Bowlus said.

• Clyde Cancer Cluster families hope that the new head of the EPA will visit Clyde, Mortensen said. Former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson had promised to come but never showed up before stepping down as the agency head. President Obama has nominated Gina McCarthy, a current EPA official. She’s awaiting Senate confirmation.

• Mortensen said he’s added additional heft to his legal team by bringing in Toledo attorney Charles Boyk, from the Charles Boyk Law Offices personal injury law firm. Boyk, featured at Monday’s press conference, told reporters that he had done research on Mortensen and found that Mortensen is a “national player” in toxic torts and is a member of a top law firm in Utah.

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