EPA begins to study Clyde Cancer Cluster

CLYDE, OH (WTOL) - The U.S. EPA has started its investigation into the Eastern Sandusky Cancer Cluster, after years of requests from victims' families.

Investigators started collecting environmental samples Monday at the former Formulated Products site on East Street in a Clyde neighborhood.  It is the first of 14 sites to be investigated.

"I think it is pretty important.  They'll get the answers they want. We'll see if anything is here. If we have to look further, we'll look further," said Steve Wolfe, the on-scene coordinator with the U.S. EPA.

The majority of the locations to be tested are former dump sites. According to investigators, many of the sites haven't been used since the 1960s. Many now have houses on them. Investigators will collect water, soil and air samples looking for possible contamination.

"We're here to see what's there. We don't go there hoping to find something, thinking something is there.  We just don't know what it is going to be," said Wolfe.

Crews will conduct "geophysical" surveys, using magnetic and radar sensing to detect possible underground burial sites, 20 feet below ground. A geo-probe then collects samples at different depths.

The testing sites were identified by the Ohio EPA and the Ohio Department of Health, after they researched the Eastern Sandusky Cancer Cluster.

"We're going further. They didn't look at these 14 sites, they just said they may be of concern.  So we're looking at it from an environmental standpoint. We're going at depth, not just surface," said Wolfe.

For families of the cancer cluster, the testing has been a long time coming. According to the Ohio EPA, at least 35 children have been diagnosed with cancer in eastern Sandusky County since 1996.

Warren Brown lost his 11 year old daughter, Alexa, after a three year battle with cancer. He wrote to the EPA years ago, requesting federal investigators look into possible environmental contamination.

"I think it is wonderful we're going to get test results to determine whether or not there are things, subsurface, that need to be dealt with... It may preclude someone else from getting sick," said Warren Brown as  he watched investigators collect the first samples.

Still, Brown and his wife, Wendy, said the testing should have been done years ago.

"Whatever window we had to determine what caused the cancer cluster, I believe and have believed, is gone, is closed.  This is just another step in the process to be sure that there is nothing that could be a health hazard to other people," said Warren Brown.

"I think it is important to do this, because Clyde has so many dumps around it. Is this going to tell us the cause of the cancer cluster? I don't think so," said Wendy Brown.

The Browns said they will continue to fight for funding for childhood cancer research, regardless of the outcome of the EPA testing.

Wolfe said collecting the physical samples would likely take between two and three weeks.  Samples will then be tested, with results possible late spring or early summer.  At that point, Wolfe said, further testing or action could be taken.

The EPA continues to operate a confidential hotline dedicated residents with information or concerns about possible dump sites in the Clyde area. Anyone with information can call 855-838-1304.

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