Investigation of the childhood cancer cluster in Sandusky County has entered a promising new phase. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is examining 14 landfills within seven miles of the city of Clyde.
The federal agency's decision, in an election year, to pick up where the Ohio EPA and the Ohio Department of Health left off may raise questions about political motives. But northwest Ohio residents -- and especially the 35 Clyde-area families who have been traumatized by cancer diagnoses among their children -- still need answers.
Cancer clusters are hard to prove. State officials saw enough evidence in Clyde to conclude that an environmental problem had triggered the cancer cases, but could not identify the cause.
The U.S. EPA wants to look more closely at area landfills, especially the 28-acre Clyde dump. That landfill began accepting waste in the 1930s, long before the modern era of disposal. It polluted Raccoon Creek and nearby groundwater for decades after it closed in 1969.
The federal agency's field work will include tests on soil samples drawn from 60-foot probes stuck into the landfills. Previous tests didn't occur at that depth and in those spots.
Sandusky County Administrator Warren Brown, whose 11-year-old daughter died of cancer in 2009, asks why there wasn't a more cohesive effort among local, state, and federal officials from the start. He and his wife, Wendy, have become driving forces behind the investigation, making multiple trips to Washington and participating in countless meetings with government officials.
Such a cancer cluster, especially when it involves children, deserves the kind of emergency response a disaster would get. But Mr. Brown told The Blade: "It appears to me everybody waits for everyone else to do their little thing."
Mr. Brown concedes that other parts of the country face similar cancer investigations. Locally, the U.S. EPA has established a confidential hot line, 855-838-1304, for residents to call with information about the 14 landfill sites.
In the end, the answers may continue to elude the experts. For now, though, the U.S. EPA's involvement offers hope to the Browns and other Clyde-area families.
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