Collins & Collins Center Water Supply
Is it Killing our Residents?
In 1986, our local Town Attorney, Bruce Mussachio began a quest to identify the carcinogen that reeked havoc in our area. He launched a quest to discover if the explosion / crash of Canteen 61, in April 1958 could be at the root of our problems. His dedication to this issue lead to a cancer survey within the area, the result was such:
The survey was conducted utilizing residents from the Town of Collins, Town and Village of North Collins and Village of Gowanda in both Cattaraugus and Erie County. For the entire study group, there were 420 cases of cancer observed, 410 cases expected. The study also confirmed that ALL of the cases were located in the southern most section of the study area in the Village of Gowanda and Town of Collins.
Due to Bruce’s official capacity within the town, he felt hindered from proceeding farther. At that point in time, Bruce photocopied his files, giving me a copy of all of the information he had collected. I made a promise to Bruce that I would continue his work and would not give up until I found conclusive evidence of a specific carcinogen within the area. Over the past 15 years, I have been collecting data, continuing the research Bruce had begun.
Unfortunately, as human nature has a way to prevail, I would seek the more romantic route of locating the carcinogen, I continued in pursuit of Canteen 61 as the carcinogen. After all, a “Government Conspiracy” seems to be the ultimate theory of explaining anything that is wrong within the country. One document within the Canteen 61 file indicated that “CRYPTO” (secret or hidden) material and subjugating documents were lost in the explosion / crash. Those statements coupled with a great deal of the file being blacked out or in some cases complete sections of the file missing, captured my attention. Utilizing the Freedom of Information Act, (FOIA) I requested the remainder of the file, only to learn that providing me with the information was “DETRIMENTAL TO NATIONAL SECURITY.”
I was forced to turn my investigation towards the New York State Cancer Surveillance Team. In questioning the team about the rate of cancer being centralized within a specific area, I was told that the team needed 10,000 persons to complete the survey, there were not 10,000 people in the area affected by the cancer. I argued the fact that indeed there were not 10,000 people, but perhaps 1,000 meaning the cancer rate in the area showed nearly 50% of all residents were affected by cancer, a remarkably high occurrence. I was told to read the report where I would find that most people within the area were high school or college graduates, thus these were socioeconomic indicators of a high cancer rate. During the many telephone conversations I would have, I would learn one tiny piece of information, a great deal of cancer was located within the Collins Center area. I now geared my research towards this particular area of the town.
The only real industry within the Hamlet was the O-At-Ka Milk Processing plant. For area residents, this was an exceptional cause of pollution and grief over the years the plant had operated. For many years, raw sewage was dumped directly into the creek that flowed alongside the property. Even after a sewage disposal system was added to the property, there was still a great amount of waste dumped into the creek. During the summer months area residents were forced to keep their homes closed up to reduce the smell which emanated from the sewage plant and creek. Air born particles of milk spewed from the roof vents of the plant, covering our home and vehicles with a by-product which literally ate away paint from buildings and cars. I focused my study on the association between milk and cancer. I was only able to learn that milk may have a positive affect on the body’s natural resistance to many forms of cancer. I had met another dead end with my research,
I refocused my attention to three households and the families that lived in these households from the 1950’s to present. I would learn that there was more than a high cancer incidence; there were indeed other similar illnesses within past and present residents.
The three households constitute 61 people, 13 of which were treated for, or died from cancer related illness, one of which was treated twice for two different types of cancer; that is equivalent to 21% of the population, past and present being affected by cancer. The cancers included; skin cancer, malignant tumors in the brain, ovarian cancer, cervical cancer, and colorectal cancer. In addition to the cancer, these residents also suffered from: fatigue, wrist and ankle weakness, reproductive problems, heart failure, gout, sleeplessness, depression, constipation, diarrhea, endometriosis, and high blood pressure.
I began studying dioxin, which is formed by burning chlorine-based chemical compounds with hydrocarbons. The major source of dioxin in the environment (95%) comes from incinerators burning chlorinated wastes. Dioxin pollution is also affiliated with paper mills which use chlorine bleaching in their process and with the production of Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) plastics.
Some of the health related issues concerning dioxin are: a lowered sperm count in men, testicular, prostrate and breast cancer, as well as endometriosis. Although I felt like I was finally nearing a true carcinogen, my research became hindered by a worsening physical condition, which even keeps me from sitting at a computer for more than ten-minute periods of time. I would locate information, book mark it and/or print it and add it to my file.
Nearly one year ago, my former husband passed away, loosing his battle with cancer. I made my resolve to locate the source of the carcinogen; unfortunately my research was still being hindered by a physical impairment. In June, Bruce lost his battle with cancer and I had yet to find the true source of the carcinogen.
A few weeks ago, I watched the movie, Erin Brockovich, which made me realize I had totally discarded the obvious. Over the past few weeks I have read over my research, using the Internet to scout updated information; after 15 years, I believe I may have located the source of the carcinogen.
In more recent years, there has been a positive link between chlorinated water and cancer. According to the U.S. Council of Environmental Quality, “Cancer risk among people drinking chlorinated water is 93% higher than among those whose water does not contain chlorine.” Research involving the links between chlorinated water and other health problems began in the 1960’s, with Dr. Joseph Price’s book “Coronaries/ Cholesterol/ Chlorine” In his book, Price indicated: “the basic cause of atherosclerosis and resulting entities such as heart attacks and stroke, is chlorine.” The Canadian Cancer Society has noted: “Recent studies suggest a relationship between chlorine byproducts and cancer, including bladder and colon cancer. Some cities and towns across Canada have begun changing their water treatment practices to reduce levels of chlorine byproducts. Others are looking for alternatives to chlorine to disinfect water, such as ozone or chloramines. Additionally, these studies indicate: “up to 2/3s of our harmful exposure to chlorine is due to inhalation of steam and skin absorption while showering.”
Recent studies by the New York State Cancer Surveillance Team indicate the Town of Collins, inclusive of Helmuth and Collins Center, to have incidences of lung cancer and colorectal cancer in males at an average of 50 – 100% above the expected incident rate. The second problem includes the causes of fatigue, depression, heart failure, abdominal pain, gout, kidney failure, high blood pressure, wrist, ankle and foot weakness, reproductive problems, anemia, sleeplessness, vomiting, constipation and diarrhea, all of which are conducive of lead poisoning.
Historically speaking, the water system throughout Collins Center was created approximately 1895. Many of the homes within the limit of the hamlet were built in the 1800’s as well. The norm was to use lead pipes, no governmental regulations on the usage of lead pipes within water systems were placed into effect until 1988. Prior to 1970, nearly all of the piping in any municipal water system was lead, when the lead pipes were replaced lead solder was still utilized to keep the system intact. Many private homes have water systems consisting of lead piping, including the home I presently reside in and the home I grew up in. Chlorine has been an inexpensive means of sanitization in municipal water systems since the late 1800’s as well.
In light of the evidence I have presented, I feel that the search that Bruce Mussachio began some 17 years ago, has finally come to a satisfactory conclusion. A carcinogen truly exists within our area; it appears to be a combination of lead and chlorine within our own water system.
Sanitation of our water supply is essential; the question now is how to effectively sanitize the water supply without further hindering the health of area residents. The lead issue will partially diminish with the planned replacement of piping throughout the town, however, many area residents could still suffer due to the cost of replacing the piping within private residential homes.
The carcinogen issue has long been debated throughout the Town of Collins, a feasible possibility to the source of that carcinogen lies within this letter. Over the years Bruce Musacchio and I have had a variety of opinion clashes, this was one area in which we both agreed. The issue was a passion of Bruce’s. In light of his recent passing, I felt it was a topic that truly deserved to be addressed.