Businesses Tied to Local Surge in Leukemia Cases

Schmiddleton AP 12/25/2015

Three business, R.W. Decency a chemical company that makes tools, the tannery owned by Bai Corporation and Firstuni Corporation which manufactures cleaning supplies, have been implicated as the cause of a localized surge in a rare form of leukemia in the Schmiddletown area.

In April of 2009 Schmanne Schmanderson’s son Jimmy was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer: lymphocytic leukemia. When she started talking to her neighbors she discovered that her son was not the only one; roughly a dozen other children had been diagnosed with this rare disease. Suspecting that there must have been an environmental factor that was causing the uptick in the rate of lymphocytic leukemia, she immediately suspected the infamous water supply for the neighborhood. Residents report that for years the water has been turbid, cloudy and had a displeasing taste.

For 5 years Schmanderson wrote to the Governor and the EPA requesting thorough testing of the water supply, with no response from him or his office.

It was then that Schmanderson contacted us here at the Schmiddletown Times back in May of 2014 to try and get the word out about her movement.

“I feel helpless. I keep writing people to try and get something done but nothing happens. There are at least a dozen children in the neighborhood with this disease, it’s supposed to be rare. We [the neighbors] have organized and we write letter after level to all levels of government. We don’t even get replies from most them, and more kids are getting sick. How can they all turn away from us?”

That is when we spearheaded our own investigation. You may remember our report where we discovered 190 barrels of buried chemicals in proximity to the wells that deliver drinking water to the neighborhood. Analysis of the contents of the barrel and the surrounding water concluded that the barrels had not leaked and the chemicals inside were not the chemicals found in the drinking water. Instead, TCE (trichloroethylene) was found in the ground water the north of the wells.

TCE is a common solvent and is used in a number of different industries. Contact with TCE can lead to a slew of harmful effects including headaches, dizziness and sleepiness for short-term exposure and long term exposure can lead to autoimmune diseases, depressed body weight and cancer.

Our research has determined that three businesses that operate within the watershed of these wells use TCE: , R.W. Decency, Bai Corporation and Firstuni Corporation. Armed with this information, Schmanderson attempted to bring these companies to court.

“If the government isn’t going to take action against these businesses then I will. Someone has to fight for these children” says Schmanderson.

That was two years ago. Since then, Jimmy had passed and Schmanne Schmanderson has been unable to find a lawyer to take on these three giant corporations which have had a historic role in the prosperity of Schmiddletown.

“They say they don’t have the funds to even try to take on these deep pocketed corporations. They say that they would go bankrupt before they’d be able to get them in court.” Schmanderson states.

These corporations have refused to comment on the situation at hand. The EPA has suggested drinking bottled water to the community. The Governor’s office has reported that “all that can be done at this level of government has been done.”

But for Schmanderson, the fight will continue. “Sixteen children have died of lymphocytic leukemia since I’ve started this movement back in 2009. I can’t give up on these children, or my own. I will keep fighting.”