News Release
   
   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
   March 12, 2001

Christine Grant
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
DHSS - Dennis McGowan
(609) 984-7160
ATSDR - John Florence
(404) 639-0501

 
Four Dover Township Health Assessments & Consultations Finalized Childhood Cancer Investigation Progress Report

Issued TRENTON - State and federal agencies investigating elevated childhood cancer rates in Dover Township today released final versions of three health assessments and a public health consultation. The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services and the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) also issued a report detailing the progress made during the first five years of their on-going investigation.

The health assessments are of the Reich Farm and the Ciba-Geigy Superfund sites and the Dover Township Municipal Landfill. The health consultation is on Dover Township's public water supply quality. Draft copies of the reports were released for public comment in late 1999 and early 2000. As a result of comments received, some technical changes were made to the reports but the conclusions and recommendations remain the same.

Copies of the finalized health assessments and consultation and the progress report are available by calling the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services at (609) 633-2043 or the department's Toms River field office at (732) 505-4188. The documents are also available on the department's web site, www.state.nj.us/health.

The Reich Farm assessment concludes that the site was a public health hazard in the past because area residents, depending on their water source, were previously exposed to site-related contamination for varying periods of time. As a result of actions taken to reduce exposure, the site is considered to pose no apparent public health hazard at present. The assessment recommends continued groundwater monitoring and treatment and that the current private well restrictions remain in place.

The Dover Township Municipal Landfill assessment concludes that the landfill was also a public health hazard because of past exposures to groundwater contaminants in nearby private wells. There is no apparent hazard associated with the landfill today because the affected wells were capped in 1991. Groundwater investigations currently being conducted by Dover Township with state Department of Environmental Protection oversight will help to determine the nature and extent of site-related contamination.

The landfill assessment also documents investigations of private well contamination in the township's Silverton section, beginning in June 1981, when residents complained of chemical odors and tastes in private well water. The source of volatile organic compounds found during testing of the water has not been established. The wells are no longer in use.

The Ciba-Geigy site assessment concludes the site, too, was a public health hazard in the past, in part because a potentially large number of people were exposed to site-related contaminants in their drinking water in the mid-1960s. The site is considered to pose no apparent public health hazard at present because of a number of actions that have been taken to protect the community. Contaminated wells that served the public water supply have been closed and affected private wells that had been used for irrigation have been sealed. The plant phased out manufacturing in the early 1990s and ceased operations by 1996. Contaminated groundwater around the site is being pumped out, treated and returned to the aquifer. Meanwhile, the federal Environmental Protection Agency is developing plans for site clean-up. The health assessment supports continued remediation efforts in order to prevent future exposure to contaminants on the site and in groundwater.

The public health consultation on Dover Township's public water supply quality summarizes all the results of public drinking water testing conducted since the beginning of the Dover Township childhood cancer investigation in 1996. As they became available, the water testing results have been released to the public through the local Citizens Action Committee on Childhood Cancer Cluster.

In most respects, the Dover Township's public water supply appears typical of groundwater-based community water supplies in southern New Jersey. However, water testing results released in 1996 showed that a previously unidentified contaminant -- styrene-acrylonitrile trimer -- was found in samples from certain water system supply wells in the Parkway well field. The trimer, a by-product of plastics manufacturing, is linked to the Reich Farm Superfund site. The federal Environmental Protection Agency is now overseeing research into the potential toxicity of the trimer. Meanwhile, treatment systems have been installed to remove chemicals in water from the affected wells. The health consultation recommends that the special treatment continue until contaminated groundwater from Reich Farm no longer affects or impacts the wells.

The three assessments and the consultation support the decision by state and federal officials to consider past community exposures to site contaminants in the epidemiologic study of childhood cancer which is now under way and scheduled for release at the end of the year.

Between 1979 and 1995, 90 children in the township were diagnosed with cancer where statistically only 67 cases were expected. Elevations were seen in leukemia and in brain and nervous system cancers. The epidemiologic study of these cancers includes interviews with parents of 199 Dover Township children -- 40 children diagnosed with cancer and a control group comprised of the remaining children. The study also examines the birth records of 528 children who were born to Dover Township residents, including 48 children later diagnosed with cancer. The study will assess exposure to local environmental hazards and other risk factors, such as family medical history and dietary factors.

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