CANCER IN STILL CREEK: Experts disagree with DOH study
By Donald R. Serfass
The Times News, © 2004

September 28, 2004

The state says its study shows no correlation between a flurry of cancer diagnoses and a nearby Superfund site.
But others say the study shows just the opposite. They say it confirms their suspicions.

The PA Department of Health (DOH) will be releasing its findings on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 7 p.m., at Quakake Fire Co. The DOH says the report finds no link between the unusual incidence of rare cancers currently found in Rush Township and the fact that the McAdoo Associates site is situated nearby.

The study examined nine communities identified by zip codes: McAdoo, Tamaqua, Quakake, Coaldale, Lansford, Summit Hill, Nesquehoning, Beaver Meadows and Weatherly. The report states that the types of cancers and the rates “do not support a suggestion that environmental factors are a cause,” according to Michelle S. Davis, Deputy Secretary for Health.

But others cite the study’s statistics in claiming just the opposite.

They say the report shows beyond a doubt that a serious problem exists.

“The results of the study clearly show statistically significant increases of five specific cancers in Schuylkill County, of one specific cancer in Carbon County and six specific cancers in Luzerne County,” says Dr. Dante Picciano, Esq., founder of the Army for a Clean Environment (ACE). “More specifically, the study shows statistically significant increases of cancer in Schuylkill County for: buccal cavity and pharynx, colon and rectum, bronchus and lung, cervix uteri, and corpus/uterus, nos. The study also shows more than a three-fold increase, approaching statistical significance, in polycythemia vera.

]”In addition, the study shows statistically significant increases of cancer in Luzerne County for: stomach, colon and rectum, larynx, corpus/uterus, nos; thyroid, and leukemias. Finally, the study shows statistically significant increases of melanoma in Carbon County.

“The Department of Health has scientifically documented what we have known for years that there are significant increases in specific cancers in Schuylkill, Carbon and Luzerne counties. The Department of Health’s work is not over; it is just beginning. Now the Department of Health must conduct studies to determine what is causing the increases in cancer in our area,” Picciano urged on Monday.

Frank Waksmumski, president, Carbon County Groundwater Guardians, says the study should have been fine-tuned.

“I don’t like the way it was done. By using entire zip codes, they’re diluting results. I want to look at only Ben Titus Road. I want to look at specific areas,” he says.

Waksmunski and his group were the first to suspect something unusual earlier this year when they documented several cases of polycythemia vera, a rare disease that affects the blood.

Suspicions came about after two residents stepped forward. Betty and Lester Kester, Ben Titus Rd., contacted Waksmumski in August 2003 to determine whether their own diagnoses of the disease might be related to contaminated drinking water from their 50-foot well.

Since then, the disease and other cancers have been popping up at an alarming rate among those living on or near the rural road located downhill from the Superfund site.

In the mid-1970s, McAdoo Associates used the land as a host site to reclaim metals from waste sludge. The operation was closed in 1979 over environmental compliance issues.

Many say the extent of contamination at McAdoo Associates never will be fully known.

Thousands of drums of hazardous waste were removed in the early 1980s. But those living in the area claim the government ‘clean-up’ was far from adequate. They claim unknown quantities of toxic matter were dumped at the site over the years, sometimes under the cover of darkness.

Contaminated soil was removed from the site in 1990, with capping performed a year later.

Some residents fear that today’s high incidence of rare cancers is a manifestation of widespread contamination deep inside the minepits where underground streams feed into the water table.