More dangerous CTS games

Writing in plain bureaucratese, I understand that a very limited CTS cancer study, looking in the wrong places [and] not finding enough health problems they weren’t looking for, is a sham used to generate a false-negative headline [“Study Finds No Cancer Clusters near CTS Site: Small Data Sample Limits Validity,” Aug. 13].

So, what is the reason this “study” was released to the Mountain Xpress, given all the caveats about “small sample sizes” and the myriad “uncertainties” involved? It seems clear to me the press release was meant to mislead your readership into concluding, at a glance, that there are no adverse health effects suffered by folks in the CTS toxic-discharge area. Using the words and conclusions of health personnel, the headline could have read: “Incomplete Survey, Fraught with a Variety of Problems, Reveals Nothing About True Cancer Rates in the CTS Toxic-flow Area.” However, that truth would not be “news” worth reporting, would it?

The CTS cancer-study area did not follow the topographical or underground drainage routes that discharge the toxic wastes from the site. A 1-mile in radius, records-only survey is not useful in determining CTS cancer clusters, since a large portion of that study area is not in the charted drainage areas. The areas that should have been studied—extensively—are those of known toxic discharge seeping into area wells, small creeks and springs beside Mills Gap Road and flowing downstream and downhill into Dingle and Robinson creeks. To incorporate large areas far up-slope or behind the adjacent hill would surely have the effect of diluting cancer-rate statistics.

Importantly, the survey did not look for a variety of other diseases associated with TCE exposure, which include: autoimmune diseases, cervical and prostate cancer, birth defects, childhood leukemia, brain cancer and pancreatic cancer.

A study that was meant to aid in understanding the true nature of the problem would not have wasted time with a records-only survey that included a “small sample fraught with uncertainty.” Nonetheless, the statements made—that a 12-percent increase in non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and a 48 percent rate increase in liver cancer in the survey area are considered “normal”—are not reassuring.

EPA, DENR and county agencies all looked the other way as the toxic site was sold off and developed for housing. That is clear from any examination of official records and subsequent agency actions. Instead of enforcing a clean-up of the site as previously ordered, these agencies have been hard at work playing bureaucratic games with peoples lives. And now, one more can be added to a very long list.

It’s long past time for our federal legislators to act on behalf of those they are supposed to be representing. Sen. Dole, Sen. Burr and Rep. Shuler all have the understanding of the situation they need in order to act—and the authority, the methods and means to get the CTS site cleaned up right now and end the problem. My question is, will they have the heart and courage to do their duty on behalf of the victims? Does anyone doubt that our representatives would ever allow a similar situation to develop in The Ramble, Biltmore Forest, the Cliffs or any other prestigious areas in the county? In our representatives’ eyes, are some lives around here more important than others?

Only in their immediate actions to protect residents’ health and welfare can their answers be clearly given. Anything else would just be playing the worst kind of politics and toying with people’s lives yet again.

— Scott Hallowell

Reporter Rebecca Bowe responds: The story in question was not based on a press release. Xpress specifically requested that the CCR conduct a study in the area surrounding the CTS site to determine if a cluster was present. The area of study, types of cancers examined etc. were all determined by CCR, using an industry-accepted methodology with input from the agencies that conducted sampling. Xpress sought to present the results of that study while explaining that it was one tool among several that, together, could help create a broader picture of public health in the vicinity of CTS.

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