Cancer Cluster Claims Lives in NJ

Residents want feds to take action

Tom Carroll says he didn't need a state health department study to confirm that his Pompton Lakes neighborhood is a cancer cluster.

"My wife died of lung cancer in June, my stepson died of throat cancer, my neighbor across the street has it, everybody is dying around here. I've never seen anyplace like this," Carroll said.
He sits in his living room, an oxygen tank on the floor beside him, a box holding 11 different types of medication on a nearby  table.

Eight months ago, doctors removed his left kidney -- ravaged by cancer -- a cancer he believes was caused by contaminated water from the now-closed DuPont munitions plant a stone's throw away from his home in Pompton Lakes.

Carroll lives in a neighborhood where state health department officials have found elevated rates of kidney cancer in women and non-Hodgkins lymphoma in men. The study stopped short of linking the cancer to the chemical-laden groundwater from the sprawling DuPont plant that takes up 1455 acres in this Passaic County community, but residents who've been asserting those claims for years say they don't need that validation to know what's making them sick.

"It's in my colon, they want to remove half of it, I've got a pre-cancerous mass in my stomach, a mass in my chest," says Joe Intintola Jr., who lives acroiss the street from Carroll. "If I had known about this I would never have moved here."

Intintola's is one of some 430 homes where potentially toxic levels of volatile organic compounds have been registered. DuPont has acknowledged that wastewater treatment from the plant that made billions of pounds of blasting caps and other munitions was improper and has contaminated surrounding water and soil in a plume running beneath hundreds of homes.

The vapors have seeped into those homes for decades. The company is offering free mediation for the affected homeowners in the form of a ventilation system, but Carroll says "they should just level these houses, or just bury us in them."

No one wants to buy the property on tainted land, he said.

Mayor Kathleen Cole, who asked for the study, now wants the federal Environmental Protection Agency to help.

"This study leaves us with more questions than we started with," she said. "If [the cancer] isn't caused by this, then what is it? Is it something else?"

Cole isn't the only one who thinks the EPA should get involved.

"The EPA needs to get in here and make this multibillion dollar corporation do the right thing by the people of Pompton Lakes," says environmentalist Bob Spiegel. "The state needs to step aside and let them do what only they can do." 

Councilwoman Lisa R, whose father died of cancer, knows how heartbreaking this can be. 

"The state has done as much as it can do," she said. "The money we need to mediate this problem ... New Jersey doesn't have. We need the federal government to take this over."

Carroll moved to his Pompton Lakes home 15 years ago after working on the site for seven or eight years as a shop steward.

"Give the devil his due," Carroll sighs. "It was a great job when we had it but we didn't know the ramifications would be this."
The Health Department will hold a public meeting on Tuesday at 7 p.m. to try to try to address residents' questions and concerns.

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