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Lethal Landfill, Part 3: Numerous cases of cancer

Lethal Landfill, Part 3: Numerous cases of cancer

Reports of unusual cancers developed by several residents in Uniontown have inflated the belief that the hazardous waste at the IEL Landfill poisoned their water and air.

Perhaps you never knew Karen Beltz but her husband remembers her fondly. "She was a very loving caring person her nursing career was her whole life," Gary Beltz said.

Beltz says she never smoked or drank, nor had a history of cancer in her family.

Still, Karen developed breast cancer and for five years fought for her life.

"You could see her deteriorate a little bit at a time. She was in a lot of pain. She lost a lot of her strength. The chemo was devastating to her," Beltz said.

Karen is one of seven women on Cain street, just south of the industrial excess landfill to develop breast cancer in the mid 1990's.

"It's very hard to watch someone you love waste away," Beltz said.

"He started out at about 185/190. He weighed about 120 pounds when he died," resident Norma Boldt said of about her husband.

At 68 Norma Boldt is a skin cancer survivor but pancreatic cancer killed her husband Tom.

"He said he would like to have things the way they were ...so I took out his nasal tube and disconnected him ...and it only took about two days," Boldt said.

Boldt says dangerous levels of cancer causing PCEs TCEs and even radiation were found in her well.

The home sits a mile away and down gradient from the landfill.

Boldt says one summer the small pond in front of the house was covered with dead fish.

"There have been so many cancers in this area. The year that I had my problem, three of us in this neighborhood had to have surgery," Boldt said.

120 cases of births defects and cancer showed up in a house to house study of the community within two miles of the landfill.

Just north of the landfill around the elementary school the study found a cluster of four cancer cases.

Just southwest along Hilltop, Amber Circle, Pine and Sunset, 20 residents were diagnosed with cancer, neurological disorders, and reports of birth defects.

Near Atwater Park, five cancer cases were reported along with birth defects.

On Cain street, where the Beltz couple lived, seven women had developed breast cancer.

In a two block area of Brouse Street, the study shows 15 people diagnosed with cancer.

Still the Agency for Toxic Substances and Decease Registry in 1989 reported it could not conclusively link these illnesses with the landfill.

"Once ATSDR comes in they'll say there is no connection. I can guarantee they will whitewash the whole thing," scientist Dr. Marvin Resnikoff said.

Dr. Resnikoff was hired with EPA grant money to serve as the Uniontown citizens' watchdog over the IEL cleanup.

"That's the natural progression wherever there are clusters. ATSDR comes in and says everything is ok," said Resnikoff.

The Department of Energy's own list of occupational diseases linked to radiation exposure matches the the list of cancers found around the Uniontown dump: Leukemia, breast cancer, pancreatic, colon, and brain cancer.

If the USEPA gets its way, by the end of 2001, the 30 acre industrial excess landfill will be capped with plastic and covered in new trees and bushes for the natural release of the poisons.

Short of maintaining monitoring wells, the agency will then close the book on this superfund site.

As recent as last December, Region Five EPA received a memo from one of its hired geologists. The memo indicated that in one monitoring well, increased levels of benzene have been detected. It is the highest level detected yet.

Note: This series was originally posted to wkyc.com between February 12 and 20, 2001./>

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