Clarendon residents seek environmental assessments

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(Host) A group of Clarendon residents that has been raising concerns about the high rate of cancer in their community is pushing state and federal officials to do more on assessing potential environmental hazards in their town.

As VPR’s Nina Keck reports, members of Clarendon FIRST will meet Tuesday in Burlington with Congressman Bernie Sanders, experts from the Centers for Disease Control and state environmental and health officials.

(Keck) Clarendon FIRST co-founder Jackie Fenner says getting the heads of several state agencies in the same room with toxicologists and hazardous waste experts will help jumpstart their cause. They can explain their concerns, she says and map out their needs.

Fenner says after unscientific door-to-door surveys in Clarendon, the group found that residents have 12.5 times the national average for non-Hodgkins lymphoma and 15.5 times the national average for leukemia. She says they now need the statistical data to verify those rates and she hopes the state can help them get that. Fenner says the group also wants the state to address the known environmental hazards in Clarendon such as petroleum leaks, pesticides and drinking water contaminants.

(Fenner) “There have been some sites that have been historically polluting our community or currently are affecting our community. And we just want the state to correctly monitor these sites and ensure the cleanup plans are in place and ongoing.”

(Keck) Fenner says six sites need attention. The state has begun water, air and soil testing and plans to do more. How to pay for all that testing will be one of the issues discussed at Tuesday’s meeting. Fenner says state officials have been very receptive to their concerns and she believes getting everyone together to discuss the situation will help streamline their efforts.

(Fenner) “I believe we’re becoming a model, Clarendon is, for other towns that have issues similar to ours, for the state to work with. We’ve done a lot of research, we’ve gone to Waterbury, we’ve dug up records that go into great detail as to the contamination. That was our footwork. And then we had our ducks in a row to go to the state and say, now we have this information and we’d like you to help us with these issues.”

(Keck) Gary Schultz is chief of Operations for the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation. He says no one knows what will turn up in Clarendon. So he says it’s important for the state to make sure that everyone who can help is brought into the loop. If it turns out that federal funding is needed to pay for testing or clean up efforts, he says it makes sense to get the state’s congressional delegation involved early on.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland.

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