Bucks County Herald

Nockamixon effort to pinpoint cancer cluster fails to find government support

CLIFF LEBOWITZ

An effort by Nockamixon Township to get help from its state and federal governments, toward investigating a possible relationship between environmental contamination and an unusual number of cancer cases in one of its neighborhoods, has apparently ended with a determination that neither entity has the resources available to help.

During his report on the matter at the April 19 public supervisors’ meeting, Solicitor Jordan Yeager said he had received clarification from Laura Werner, from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), which is a unit of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, that the group didn’t have the resources to do an independent study.

Yeager had previously proposed asking Werner to come to town to explain her agreement with state officials “that there was not a basis in the available statistics to identify what they consider a cancer cluster.”

After postponing such a visit, she now stated she was not able to do that, and indicated that ATSDR, with limited staff, was dependent on the state Department of Health to perform such studies, with her group busy helping communities where data already backed up a link.

Last July, Yeager reported that he had followed up on some correspondence with the state on the matter, and learned that the state health department had concluded the size of the geographic area, around Frogtown Road, was not large enough for them to make an assessment. They needed a bigger area in order to compare the observed cancer incidence among residents there to areas elsewhere in the state, toward determining if there was something odd about the number of incidents at that location.

At that time, Supervisors Chair Bill Sadow had responded “I get that, but there are three sites within a mile of there that might be contributing – Revere (Chemical Company; Superfund cleanup site), the landfill, and (a known) TCE (trichloroethylene site).”

Yeager had previously offered that the addition of the federal government to the state, in denying cancer cluster evidence, “can be seen as good news from the experts, or bad news for not seeing an answer for the (cancer) incidents.” At the April 19 meeting, he concluded that “the issue is not with ATSDR, but the state Dept. of Health, who don’t have the resources to help.”

Yeager had also previously noted that as an alternative to help from the state, the township “would have to get an epidemiologist to go house to house” to consider whether the specific types of cancer observed were considered to be environmentally-related, an effort that would be expensive for the township to sponsor.

Also at the April 19 meeting, members of the township’s Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) called for the TCE site, a plume in Harrow, to get “a new ring of monitoring wells.”




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