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Published: Monday, 10/24/2011

New hope for Clyde

Families devastated by the mysterious cluster of child-cancer cases in the Clyde area have a new glimmer of hope. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it will take a hard look at what the State of Ohio’s pollution detectives have failed to uncover.

U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said this month that her agency may even take over the years-long environmental investigation that has stumped the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio EPA. The two state agencies have said the cancer cluster has an obvious environmental trigger. But they effectively closed the books on the case last May, saying they felt they had exhausted all possibilities to identify the cluster’s cause.

Ms. Jackson responded to an inquiry by Sandusky County Administrator Warren Brown, whose 11-year-old daughter died of cancer in 2009. She said the agency’s Great Lakes regional administrator, Susan Hedman, has “assigned investigators to review the history of industrial facilities and dump sites near Clyde.”

Ms. Jackson told Mr. Brown she plans to come to Clyde to meet with him and others once her agency has determined “whether federal action is warranted.” She said federal EPA investigators were specifically interested in the Clyde Dump and other area landfills.

According to Ohio EPA records, the 28-acre Clyde Dump was an unregulated facility that began taking waste in the 1930s, long before the modern era of waste disposal. It polluted Raccoon Creek and nearby groundwater for decades after it closed in 1969 with chemicals from uncontrolled leaching.

“It’s unfortunate children have to die before our government pays attention,” Mr. Brown says. But the new developments may at least offer enough cause to reopen the investigation.

A new analysis concludes that the Ohio Department of Health’s protocol for screening for cancer risks in Clyde may have been too generous. Its author, Stephen Lester, is science director of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice, founded and led by environmentalist Lois Gibbs. Ms. Gibbs’ activism led to the Love Canal evacuation in the 1970s, which inspired the creation of the nation’s Superfund program for cleaning up toxic waste sites.

Families of cancer-stricken children don’t need false hope. But they deserve to have every reasonable angle explored, even if that means auditing records of front-line state investigators. The U.S. EPA is right to re-examine the evidence.



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