By David Slade
The Morning Call Inc., Copyright 2004
Reprinted With Permission
June 2, 2004

A Rush Township neighborhood, near a former Superfund site, where three neighbors have been diagnosed with the same rare bone marrow disease needs to be investigated by state agencies, a local environmental group says.

Three residents of Ben Titus Road were diagnosed in the past three years with polycythemia vera, a rare, acquired bone marrow disorder classified as a type of blood-related cancer, said Frank S. Waksmunski, a member of the Carbon County Groundwater Guardians.

A fourth person in the same area has symptoms of the disease, Waksmunski said.

”What are the odds of three people, possibly four, having a disease that strikes only one out of every 200,000 people?” he said. ”We thought the chance was so remote that we’re looking for an environmental cause.”

The Groundwater Guardians say that with the help of state Rep. David Argall, they will ask the state Department of Environmental Protection and the state Health Department to investigate the matter.

The group is scheduled to hold a news conference today in the neighborhood to make the plea.

It’s unknown what causes polycythemia vera, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. The disease thickens blood, increasing the risk of heart attack, stroke and a form of leukemia.

Ben Titus Road, also called Still Creek Road, is near the Kline Township line. Kline Township is home to the former Superfund site, an 8-acre tract once owned by McAdoo Associates, which operated a metal reclamation and incineration facility there until a state permit was revoked in 1979.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found the soil there contaminated with heavy metals and low levels of various volatile organic compounds.

Under EPA supervision, contaminated soil was excavated and the site was capped – a process completed in 1992, according to the agency.

”In 1992, the EPA completed an investigation into the nature and extent of any contamination in the groundwater and off-site surface water,” the agency said in a report on the site.

”The investigations concluded that no further actions were required to clean up the contaminated groundwater and off-site surface water.”

The state Health Department also studied the area.

”We did a public health assessment there in 1993,” department spokesman Richard McGarvey said Tuesday. ”At that time we didn’t find any off-site migration.

”We do have some correspondence from Rep. David Argall asking us to look into it again. We haven’t gotten back to him yet, but we certainly plan to.”

Waksmunski said the Groundwater Guardians want the Health Department to take another look.

Meanwhile, the DEP has sampled wells at four homes along Ben Titus Road, and those homeowners soon will get the results, DEP spokesman Mark Carmon said.

”This is one we are already involved with,” Carmon said. ”We’re in contact with Frank and the rest of those people, and will continue to be.”

Carmon said the test results will be made public after the homeowners are informed. He said the McAdoo Associates site has been studied closely in the past.

”All through the investigation of that Superfund site there were allegations that there were areas other than that property where waste was dumped,” he said. ”We followed up and I don’t believe we ever found anything.”

Waksmunski said more testing is warranted. He said illegal waste dumping in old coal mines and a cogeneration plant near the former Superfund site also warrant scrutiny.

”All we want is to have the state DEP and DOH come back in and examine this,” he said.

Waksmunski said the Carbon County group got involved with the issue after one of the people with polycythemia vera contacted him.

”We didn’t go looking for this,” he said. ”It came to us.”