Study of Clarendon contamination expands

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(Host) State environmental officials are expanding their review of possible chemical contamination in Clarendon. Residents there have raised concerns about a cluster of cancer cases, as VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) A local citizens’ group called Clarendon FIRST (Families Interested in Researching Sickness Together) has launched an extensive health survey of town residents. The survey began after residents learned that three Clarendon children were diagnosed with leukemia.

Members of Clarendon FIRST also brought their concerns to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. After a meeting last month, the state has decided to expand its ground water testing in the area.

George Desch is the state’s hazardous sites manager. He says an old gas station in town has leaked benzene and MBTE, a gasoline additive, into the ground water. Residents of a nearby trailer park already use bottled water because of the contamination. Now Desch says the state will do more testing to see if the chemicals have spread.

(Desch) “We intend to do some additional sampling to expand the monitoring network. At this point, I don’t know if we’ve nailed down the actual sampling locations because we have to get access, get people’s permission to get in and everything. But we’ve already started down that road to identify additional sampling points for water supplies.”

(Dillon) State environmental officials will also work with the Health Department and Agriculture Department to test the environment around the Clarendon Elementary school. The school is downhill from contaminated sites and is near farm fields, where chemicals may be used.

Desch says they’ll look first at the soil, to see if kids are exposed to any hazardous substances.

(Desch) “We’re interested in trying to get where the direct contact threat is, because that’s what we’re looking at. Are the kids being exposed by contact with soils in the area of the playing fields? That’s the kind of things we’ll be focusing on.”

(Dillon) Besides the three leukemia cases among Clarendon children, Clarendon FIRST also says six other children in the school system have cancer.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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