Cancer concerns heard in Clyde

CLYDE For most communities, a clean bill of health is cause for celebration. But in Clyde, it was me
Sarah Weber
May 24, 2010

 

CLYDE

For most communities, a clean bill of health is cause for celebration. But in Clyde, it was met with more sober reactions Monday night.

Representatives from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio and Sandusky County departments of health told residents no red flags and no smoking guns had been found in the first rounds of environmental testing that might explain why more than 18 Clyde-Green Springs area children have been diagnosed with cancer since 1996.

In fact, Division of Air Pollution Control representative Paul Koval said Clyde has the cleanest air that's been monitored in the state.

"I hate to throw the words 'good news' around very loosely because we still don't know what's happening here," OEPA Director Chris Korleski said.

Agents from OEPA started air and water testing in January, after Korleski promised residents the cancer cluster would be his first priority late last year.

Water testing in the area, with the exception of a surface water study, has been completed. Air testing will continue through the end of the year.

The results, presented and explained by OEPA representatives, did not show any abnormal levels of metals or chemicals.

"The short answer is we found nothing in the air results or in the water results indicative of a public health problem," Korleski said. "That's positive. I am glad that what we are seeing is clean air and clean water but I'm not breathing a sigh of relief because we still don't know what is causing these cancers."

Michael Eggert, assistant chief of the division of drinking and ground waters, said 11 samples of public and well water were tested for compounds including lead, calcium, nitrates, petroleum products, uranium, pesticides, and organic compounds.

Only strontium and sodium were found in high levels in well water. Neither are carcinogenic, and both are naturally occurring in local water, Eggert said.

Koval, who presented air data, said testing will have to continue through the seasons to get a long-term snapshot. So far, he said, things look good.

Air samples from seven monitors were tested for compounds including arsenic, cadmium, chromium, benzene, toluene, dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls.

Almost all of the compounds were found in below-average quantities for Ohio, including benzene, which is an indicator of carcinogenic compounds. Methylene chloride was tested at above state averages, which Koval said the department is looking into.

He said the compound is minimally toxic.

"This is the cleanest air we've monitored in the state of Ohio," he said.

Holly Tucker, Division of Surface Water, said a regularly scheduled survey of surface water has been adjusted to include some additional tests in light of the cancer study.

She said starting in mid-June, her team will check creeks and reservoirs in the area for wildlife and compounds that indicate the health of waterways.

She said testing will begin in summer, when the water levels are lowest and pollution levels highest -- meaning the agency will get a snapshot of the highest concentrations of compounds.

In addition to environmental testing, the local and state departments of health will continue to do their own research. Ohio Department of Health Director Alan Jackson said his department's spatial analysis of where the children with cancer lived and spent their time will be done by April 30.

The panel of experts from OEPA and state and local health departments also answered questions from the audience, which included several parents of diagnosed children, city council members and concerned residents.

Warren Brown, whose daughter Alexa, 11, was diagnosed with brain and spinal cancer, said he wasn't surprised by the results.

"They haven't found anything and I don't think they'll ever find anything," Brown said. "And I hope I'm wrong."

Korleski said even though the results didn't produce a potential cause, the agencies are committed to investigating.

"I can tell you this one keeps us up at night," he said. "We're going to keep working on it."

WANT TO KNOW MORE?

A slide show of the presentation, as well as the Ohio EPA's presentation in December, is available at www.epa.state.ohio.us/pic/clyde/html.