Lawsuits Filed In Missouri Brain Tumor Cases

Thursday, Jan 7, 2010  |  Updated 5:18 PM CDT
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Lawsuits Filed In Missouri Brain Tumor Cases

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KANSAS CITY, Missouri, August 27, 2008 (ENS) - Six residents of the northwest Missouri town of Cameron are suing the owners of an insulation factory that has been closed for more than 25 years, claiming that discharges and hazardous waste from the factory caused a rash of brain tumors and other illnesses in local residents.

Kansas City, Missouri attorney Grant Davis filed a total of five lawsuits in Clinton County on behalf of the six residents, demanding monetary damages from companies linked to Rockwool Industries.

Rockwool turned iron into fiber insulation at a plant three miles west of Cameron. The company went out of business in 1981, and after their efforts to sell the building failed, they donated the 20 acres and 86,000 sq. ft. building to the city of Cameron. Rockwool was dissolved as a company in 1991.

The lawsuits allege Rockwool dumped toxic substances at or near the plant between 1974 and 1982, including on land where the plaintiffs lived. They also claim the company buried hazardous waste near the plant and in a nearby quarry.

The lawsuits were filed by Cameron residents Cyndee Gardner, Carol Helms, Rebecca Stewart, Michael O'Loughlin, and Hope and Steve Soldberg.

None of the plaintiffs claim they have brain cancers but say that some of their relatives have developed tumors.

The cases were filed against Susquehanna Corp. of Delaware, which the lawsuits say owned and managed its subsidiary company Rockwool, as well as Susquehanna's parent company, Eteroutremer of Belgium.

The suits also name as defendant Loren Brookshier, a Cowgill, Missouri resident who the lawsuits say is a former Rockwool manager.

The cases seek class-action status that if granted may allow thousands of Cameron residents to receive damages.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is conducting a cancer inquiry in response to what the agency calls "a possible inordinate amount of brain tumor cases in Cameron."

In conjunction with the cancer inquiry, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources is conducting an environmental investigation with assistance from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The state and federal agencies collected about 50 soil, sediment, surface water, groundwater and waste rock samples from the former Rockwool facility and the Grindstone Quarry on July 14 and 15, 2008.

Soil, surface water, sediment and groundwater samples were analyzed for volatile organic compounds, semi-volatile organic compounds and metals. Waste rock samples were analyzed for metals.

Last week, the Missouri DNR and the EPA held an information session attended by about 250 residents to release the test results. The agencies said that their tests of soil and water near the plant and the quarry showed high levels of lead and arsenic in some areas but not enough to threaten health.

"The groundwater had high levels of arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, thallium, vanadium and zinc when compared to drinking water standards," the agencies said in a statement. "However, these are isolated pockets of groundwater that are very turbid and high in suspended solids and would never be used for drinking."

Sixty-eight people in Cameron have returned state surveys reporting cases of benign or malignant brain tumors, part of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services' investigation into whether there is a cancer cluster in the town.

Local suspicions of illegal hazardous waste dumping by the Rockwood plant go back nearly 20 years. In November 1989, for instance, the EPA Criminal Investigation Center received an anonymous allegation of buried drums of suspected hazardous waste at the Rockwool plant in Cameron, which by then was closed.

The subsequent EPA investigation did not substantiate the allegations nor turn up evidence of a release of hazardous substances.

The EPA said Tuesday that more testing is scheduled, including water sampling at a group of homes and at a nearby quarry.

The EPA is also trying to pinpoint the site of an old city landfill for more testing. Also, samples will be taken in an area once used by rail cars.

In response to high community concern about the city’s drinking water as a possible cause of the brain tumors, the DNR tested the public drinking water but found "no contaminants that would pose a public health threat." Over many years of testing and evaluation, Cameron’s public water historically has been found to be clean and safe for public consumption, the agency said.

Cameron is located about 30 miles east of St. Joseph and 50 miles north of Kansas City, Missouri.

Another Rockwool site Belton, Bell County, Texas was placed on the EPA Superfund List in 1998. In 2004 the EPA ordered that a containment cell be constructed to prevent hazardous waste from the site from leaching into the ground water and entering the Leon River.

{Photo: A street in downtown Cameron, Missouri, courtesy Great Realty USA}

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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