Last week you may have read a blog post about a group of teenagers in Le Roy, New York who all became afflicted with a neurological illness that causes facial tics and uncontrollable verbal outbursts. Parents and the Le Roy community are stumped as the cause of the illness, but many suspect that it is somehow tied to a 1970 train derailment that spilled hazardous waste materials.
Some clues to the mystery might begin to reveal themselves now that the EPA is investigating the contents of large drums of soil and rock dug out from the area of the spill. The derailment unleashed an unknown amount of dangerous chemicals—cyanide and TCE—into the surrounding area.
According to Ben Beagle of The Daily News, “TCE ended up in the water table and bedrock along Gulf Road. EPA and state Department of Environmental Conservation testing done in the 1990s showed a plume of TCE groundwater contamination had spread almost 4 miles the east and southeast of the accident scene…”
It’s very likely that the polluted groundwater reached the land the teens’ school sits on. What isn’t clear is how the water could have harmed the students since the school is hooked up to a public water system and does not draw any water from the property. Parents and environmental activist Erin Brockovich are frustrated that a proper site assessment was never performed; water testing and vapor extraction test were never done on the school’s land.
The drums, which have sat untested since the toxic waste removal after the spill, are now finally going to be examined to determine what exactly they contain. Once that information is known, health officials will know if any other contaminants were released during the spill and if perhaps they can be attributed to the strange illness. Once officials know the contents of the barrels, they can also determine where to properly dispose of them.