Clyde: Playground built over deadly chemicals

7:11 PM, Nov 14, 2012   |    comments
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Clyde, OHIO -- An EPA study found a community playground sits on as much as 9 feet of toxic sludge.

The report, which was posted online October 28, reveals the results of soil tests in and around Whirlpool Park, a community playground in Clyde, a town of 6,000 located about 90 minutes southwest of Cleveland.

"These are all carcinogens these chemicals, and they give credence and can cause the cancers that we've seen in the children of Clyde," attorney Alan Mortensen announced at news conference Wednesday at the Clyde Public Library.

Mortensen's firm represents a number of families in Clyde who have lost loved ones in recent years to cancer.  He said there is a 95 percent chance the cancers in dozens of Clyde residents were caused by an outside source. 

"I grew up playing at that park,' said Clyde resident Trina Donnersbach, whose daughter Shilah died at the age of 20 in 2007, two years after being diagnosed with a huge tumor in her pelvic bone.

"She also did play at the park," Donnersbach said, believing that the toxins in Whirlpool Park were the cause of her daughter's disease. She displayed pictures of Shilah during the news conference.

Two generations of Clyde-area residents played and swam in the park which was closed in 2002 and sold to a private owner by Whirlpool three years later.

That owner did not know of the deadly toxins the EPA said are within 6 inches of the surface in some cases.

The current owner, who was going to build homes on the site, has reportedly offered to turn the 35-acre parcel of land back to Whirlpool, which has refused, according to the residents' attorneys.

Whirlpool has been Clyde's major employer for decades and has done a lot of good for the community, said attorney Dustin Lance, who added, "What we're concerned about is that the community is not aware of the other activities that Whirlpool was involved in that have caused substantial risk to this community and to their families."

In its 106-page report, which recently appeared online, and of which the people of Clyde were not made aware, also identified several other sites in and around the town with potentially cancer-causing chemicals.

Attorneys say although it is highly likely there is a connection between the cancers and the soil, air, or water in Clyde, it is not certain, and the source may not specifically be Whirlpool Park.  However, they say virtually all the people affected by cancer, or in the case of children, their mothers, spent time there.

Mortensen said it is possible PCB contamination could have passed from mothers to their unborn children, with cancers developing as the children grew up.

Some residents were furious that the U.S. EPA never told them of their findings, and that they had to happen upon it by chance online.

"The family members want to be involved and want to be informed and want to know what's going on," said Mortensen, who called the situation an outrage, "because it's their children who have been affected by this."

Residents and their attorneys were also perplexed that the Ohio EPA, the state health department, and various local agencies never found the concentrations of potentially deadly chemicals which the U.S. EPA unearthed when it did 16-foot-deep core samples at all the sites in June.

Warren Brown, whose daughter Alexa died at the age of 11 after a valiant 3-year battle with brain cancer, held up a picture of the little girl at the community news conference and made a solemn declaration.

"When Alexa lay on her deathbed," he said, slowly and deliberately, "I told her her death would not be in vain. We are going to get some answers."


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