The cancer cluster that has included nearly 40 Sandusky County children and their families is an issue of accountability. The polluter must be held accountable, but so must regulatory agencies if their investigations were inadequate.
The latest revelation is the discovery of toxic sludge at the former 27-acre Whirlpool Park near Green Springs, 6 miles southwest of Whirlpool’s factory in Clyde. The site, which Whirlpool acquired in 1953, was developed into a park for company employees and guests. It stayed open until 2006, then was sold to a would-be developer in 2008.
Screening done only months ago by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found pervasive levels of banned industrial lubricants known as PCBs and other chemicals that are known to cause cancer. Samples taken from one area showed signs of toxic sludge 10 feet deep, accompanied by petroleum odors.
The park featured basketball courts, tennis courts, and a popular swimming pool. The latter was filled with pond water in its early years.
Whirlpool, which learned about the EPA sampling results in July, is offering to pay for a more comprehensive site assessment. A company spokesman told The Blade that Whirlpool has no records of any dumping or use of contaminated fill on its behalf at the site. He said the company was as startled by the discovery as everyone else.
Next week, Whirlpool is scheduled to meet with the current owner of the site to continue discussions on a buy-back proposal. The company said it wants to regain unrestricted access to move forward with a cleanup. The spokesman said it is prepared to pay for such an effort, because there is a strong possibility the waste was present during the 55 years it owned the site.
The U.S. EPA received about 90 calls about the park on a hot line it established long after state regulators finished their work at the site. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Department of Health repeatedly have called the cancer cluster their No. 1 priority.
Yet in light of the pollution discovered at the former Whirlpool Park, some local families question that assertion. They want other sites revisited, especially Clyde’s city dump and sites where Vickery Environmental Inc. has injected tons of chemical waste.
The discovery of Whirlpool Park’s waste could impair relations between Clyde-area residents and both Whirlpool and state government. The U.S. EPA’s work has set the investigation on a new path. But the federal agencies did not present the sampling data to local families; their attorneys found the information online.
It is unclear whether anyone will reopen or widen the investigation of the cancer cluster in Sandusky County. But local residents still need, and deserve, credible answers.