Erin Brockovich And Le Roy Parents Demanding Answers
By John M Disque
Edited By James Howell
Video By HLN
In the fall of 2011, a few students, at Le Roy Junior-Senior High School in upstate New York (A suburb of Rochester) began to display Tourette-like symptoms including uncontrollable tics and verbal outbursts. Then the numbers began increasing and now there are fifteen students (14 girls and 1 boy) ages 13 to 18, with the same baffling disorder that has no official cause.
This has been going on for months now. The district had indoor air sampling done in December and found no evidence that contaminants or mold were present. As doctors eliminate possible causes, many have felt the school has not done enough and some kind of information was being kept from them. To get their questions answered, many of the student’s parents called on outside sources and began working with environmental specialists.
Last week new attention on a train wreck, four miles from the school, came into play. In 1971 a train derailed in Le Roy resulting in thousands of gallons of toxic waste being spilled. It is feared that dirt and rock from the site was used to build the school. The other fear is that the toxins have been seeping into the ground toward the school.
The contaminated soil was put into 55 gallon drums, fenced-in and left there since the accident occurred (41 years). Today they are rusted-out remnants of the disaster and the toxic mess has been allowed to seep into the ground for years.
When the story first started breaking, some of the media took interest (particularly Dr, Drew of HLN) and, with the continued pressure to find answers, many more media outlets, environmentalists and doctors took interest in the story.
Long time, well known, consumer advocates - Erin Brockovich and Dr. Rosario Trifiletti came onto the scene to lend a hand.
Brockovich has been described as a modern-day “David” who loves a good brawl with today’s “Goliaths.” Her résumé is long, impressive and powerful. She’s worked on environmental issues around the world, she’s the first to stand up for human rights, she’s not intimidated by the big dogs, she’s had movies made about her and her list of awards and accomplishments seems to go on forever.
When learning of the Le Roy School situation Brockovich took interest and, when the story escalated to include the toxic spill, she sent a group of representatives to Le Roy.
Water samples were taken from wells ranging form 35-160 feet deep in, and around, the area but, when Brockovich-associates approached the school grounds, on Saturday Jan 28, they ran into a problem…
They were met by police and school officials who refused access to the school grounds.
Most people keeping up the story threw up their hands and agreed that it looked like the school had something to hide.
The school superintendent (Kim Cox) released a letter to the community stating that the people who showed up to take samples claimed to be working on behalf of Erin Brockovitch and have distracted the school from getting back to their mission of normalcy which every medical professional says is critical for the health and well-being of all students.
Cox states that they've been assured by numerous medical professionals the school is safe and they’ve hired their own independent environmental expert to help reassure the community.
Cox continues, “The individual who came onto school property this past Saturday did not identify himself, did not show his credentials, and did not contact us ahead of time to offer assistance or coordinate with our efforts. Nor did this individual demonstrate that the testing approach was in accordance with scientific methods. It was clearly staged as a publicity stunt with members of local and national media invited to participate. We know this because the media arrived well in advance of this individual. In fact, one member of the media entered the school without permission and interrupted the preparations for an on-site program. Of course they were asked to leave. I am charged with keeping this entire school, staff, students and grounds safe. Not knowing this individual’s intention, I had no idea if he was there to get something or leave something.”
She goes on and stresses the importance of keeping the anxiety level down and the confusion minimized. She states that all professional resources are being utilized and that the answers are going to take some time.
From an outside perspective, it appears that Cox’s ego was fractured when environmentalists went over her head and took control of the situation.
The parents of the students affected, and some of the students themselves, are not getting answers and some state that the research the school and the community has done is very minimal. It’s the community’s tax money that pays for this school and pays Kim Cox’s salary. The community, especially the parents of the students suffering, have a complete right to bring in their own experts and get answers, second opinions and/or eliminate possibilities.
Activists and media around the country are paying strict attention to the story.
Published in East TN News February 1, 2012