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CLYDE, Ohio — An environmental company hired by Whirlpool began testing for cancer-causing contaminants on Monday that might be linked to more than three dozen children being diagnosed with cancer in Clyde and Green Springs.
The testing, which is expected to take up to three weeks to complete, is being conducted at the former Whirlpool Park site, which the company sold to a private owner in 2008, said Jeff Noel, corporate vice president of communications and public affairs for Whirlpool.
The testing is being overseen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Results of the tests are expected to be ready by early fall, Mr. Noel said.
“It’s a very methodical process,” Mr. Noel said. “It involves a lot of science, accuracy, and methodology.”
During the next several weeks, workers from AECOM, a global company with facilities in Akron, Cleveland, and Columbus, will install 12 deep and shallow monitoring wells and take about 360 samples that it will share with the Environmental Protection Agency. The cost of the testing is about $300,000, Mr. Noel said.
“It’s the right thing to do,” he said. “We’re less concerned about the cost than we are about what the feds want us to do.”
The testing comes a week after a federal class-action lawsuit was filed against Whirlpool Corp.
RELATED ARTICLE: 27 plaintiffs sue Whirlpool over Clyde cancer cluster
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court of Toledo, names 27 plaintiffs, including Warren Brown of Clyde, who lost his 11-year-old daughter Alexa to cancer in 2009. Most plaintiffs live in Green Springs and Clyde, an area where authorities have investigated why at least 35 children have been diagnosed with cancer. Alexa and three others have died.
The lawsuit links the cancer cases to exposure to benzaldehyde, a compound found in the attics of five Clyde homes a mile or less from Whirlpool’s plant. The plant is located about 10 miles from the former company-owned park.
The suit contends Whirlpool “intended to deceive” government agencies and citizens and made false statements regarding its knowledge of chemicals, including toxins found earlier at the former Whirlpool Park.
The suit seeks a judgment of at least $5 million.
Whirlpool officials have denied the allegations and have promised their full cooperation. But, the company also intends to defend itself and the integrity of its 3,000 employees and former employees, whom Mr. Noel describes as “very responsible, really good people who do good work.”
“I don’t think the general public realizes the extent of testing and precautions that are taken,” Mr. Noel said. “Speculation, emotion — I think we have a lot of that right now.
“And, we have to be understanding of where people are coming from. It is a tough issue.”
According to property records, Whirlpool purchased the 27-acre park site in 1953 for use as a park for employees, their families, and friends. The park, which included a large swimming pool, a full-size basketball court, and other amenities, closed in 2006.
Company officials have said that they never used the park as a dump site or authorized dumping of any waste at the site. Whirlpool was notified of the contamination issue by the Environmental Protection Agency in July, 2012, they said.
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