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Published: 11/25/2013

Lawyer says Whirlpool report skips major items

Firm outlined findings of study on site of park

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Mortensen Mortensen
THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge | Buy This Photo

One federal lawsuit that attempted to tie Whirlpool Corp. to eastern Sandusky County’s mysterious cancer cluster has been dismissed, but the other one is heating up.

Attorney Alan Mortensen said families he represents are taking no comfort in a company-generated report issued a few weeks ago in which Whirlpool said a contractor found nothing alarming in its analysis of water and soil samples from the 27-acre site near Green Springs formerly known as Whirlpool Park. Tests have been conducted in the area for several years to try to determine why at least 35 children have been diagnosed with cancer in the Clyde area in more than a decade; four of the children have died.

In a release issued to the media on Saturday and in an interview with The Blade on Monday, Mr. Mortensen said there were four types of cancer-causing chemicals found in the 1,608-page report that should have been highlighted; one — benzo(a)pyrene — was detected at a level 86 times the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency threshold for residential safety.

He accused Whirlpool of downplaying or omitting some key findings in an executive summary the company used as the basis for its conclusions.

Whirlpool denied those allegations Monday.

The cross-volley occurred weeks after several attorneys representing Tim Lagrou of Fremont and other residents in a similar case against Whirlpool had it withdrawn by Judge James G. Carr of U.S. District Court in Toledo.

Whirlpool acknowledged in a newsletter to employees on Nov. 8 that that complaint could be refiled in the future by other attorneys in the case.

Plaintiff attorneys in that case did not respond to requests for interviews Monday.

Whirlpool has a motion pending before Judge Carr to dismiss the case that was brought by Mr. Mortensen’s firm.

One of Mr. Mortensen’s clients, Renee Farley, lives next door to the park with her husband, Herb Farley.

Ms. Farley said the only thing separating their property from contaminated soil at the Whirlpool site is a chain-link fence.

She said their well water did not have one of the chief pollutants — polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs — when it was tested last year. Ms. Farley said the couple wants it tested for other chemicals now, as well as the soil on their property.

“We’re very worried about staying back here for health reasons,” Ms. Farley said. “We can’t afford two places. We can’t sell this property — nobody would buy it.”

Whirlpool said this month that it feels exonerated by the test results, which were done in accordance with U.S. EPA regulations by a company contractor.

The company said the results show no evidence of illegal dumping or widespread contamination, whereas Mr. Mortensen claims they bolster his case.

The federal agency has not characterized the results beyond stating it was satisfied how the tests were done, although it told The Blade in an email weeks ago it concurs with the findings of Whirlpool’s contractor. The agency would not elaborate.

“Mr. Mortensen’s latest press release is yet another irresponsible attempt to mislead the Clyde community,” according to a statement Whirlpool provided The Blade on Monday.

Mr. Mortensen disagreed.

“There’s a staggering cause of concern,” he said. “To be honest, those findings have given us additional life on our case.”

Whirlpool had owned the site for decades and had made it available as a community park.

It is now privately owned by a company deciding whether to build housing on it.

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com or 419-724-6079.



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