I had just about stopped watching “Headline News.” First it was their decision to have all their hosts try and convict Casey Anthony for murder as they sat in isolated TV studios, and then trashing the actual jury for disagreeing with them. (Or as manic host Nancy Grace elegantly put it: "Tot Mom's lies seem to have worked. The devil is dancing tonight." ) This was followed by Joy Behar getting the axe. What was the point of watching anymore?
Yet clicking through stations the other night, there was Erin Brockovich on HLN’s Dr. Drew Show! And she was breaking some “stunning” news (as Dr. Drew put it) about what might be causing the terrible Tourette's like symptoms hitting teenagers in Leroy, NY, which until now many have blamed “conversion disorder, or mass hysteria.”
But now we find out, as reported on Dr. Drew, that a1971 train derailment very close to where these kids go to school caused cyanide and 45,000 gallons of TCE to spill, and which was never cleaned up. Erin's team went to Leroy to start taking soil samples at the school – but were sent away.
Here’s some of what they told Dr. Drew:
HLN CORRESPONDENT JIM SPELLMAN: In that statement, Superintendent Kim Cox said the school district had hired an environmental consulting firm to review previous test results. But after being denied access to school grounds, [BOB BOWCOCK, ENVIRONMENTAL INVESTIGATOR] remains skeptical.
BOWCOCK: I will tell you that usually in settings or situations like this when I`m confronted by officials barring access to something, they usually have something to hide.
SPELLMAN: After taking some water samples at nearby residences, Bowcock headed to the derailment site where in 1970, over 30,000 gallons of toxic solvent TCE spilled after a train went off the tracks. Bowcock said he was surprised to find an untended cleanup site, some of the storage drums were leaking and corroded.
BOWCOCK: But what they`ve done is they`ve left 55 gallon drums of the soil, when they drilled the monitoring well, the contaminated soil came up because if you put it on (ph) on a drum, it should go to a hazardous landfill.
It`s so - it`s so hazardous that they had to put this berm in to protect the stuff from spilling back out. You have a sign like that, and 55 gallon drums rotting away, leaking material out into the environment right now, draw your own conclusion.
PINSKY: And Erin keeps telling me this is a big deal. This is something unlike anything either she or Bob has ever seen in their career. Tell me why.
ERIN BROCKOVICH, ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST: Well, for some of the reasons, I mean first of all, for a couple of factors. I mean it took agencies so long to respond to a spill.
PINSKY: Twenty-five years.
BROCKOVICH: Twenty-five years.
PINSKY: So was there leeching of the spill for 25 years?
PINSKY: There’s documentation of wells being contaminated during that time.
PINSKY: People are getting jugs of water sent to them so they don’t drink the well water by the railroad company.
PINSKY: And then when they finally do respond, Bob, you say the site itself has been rendered into a toxic dump?
BOWCOCK: Oh, absolutely. They`ve gone in and excavated some of the materials to do their testing, put it in 55 gallon drums and left in there to rot and just go right back into the environment.
PINSKY: OK. So are we - are we saying that - I just want to add up the score. Summarize it for me, Erin, if you could, that this is an extraordinary situation. Bob, the dump site is unlike anything you’ve seen where the remediation site has become its own toxic spill.
The EPA says there’s no connection to the train derailment. Others say, "if this spill happened in 1971, why are we only see health problems now?" Brockovich responded:
BROCKOVICH: But very quickly just to share with you what people are reporting to me from the area, they are reporting that they grew up in that area and they`ve seen and they know of dumping. They’re reporting as adults now that as children they were told not to drink the water in or around the ball field.
I have people reporting to me who grew up in the area whose sons have tics, who were born with rare birth defects. I have children who grew up in the area who are reporting to me they had bone cancer at the age of 10. I have children who grew up in the area who are reporting to me as young adults in their early 20s that they`ve been diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia.
I`m getting reports from people who still live their on Maple Avenue, that there’s eight known families with very rare cancers, moving on to Erie Street, there’s more cases of cancer being reported. I have people reporting to me that their two and a half-year-olds have tic-like syndromes.
PINSKY: I`m going to stop you because we can’t substantiate this, but we get - we get the idea.
BROCKOVICH: Right. I understand. And these are all reports that we are clearly substantiating as well.
But I want something that people to understand for 21 years that I’ve been doing this, these people who come from these areas, they’re the first not to panic. They want answers and they’re reporting information to me that can help us get answers for these 12 girls, for them, and for the community as a whole.
These people have a lot better things to do in their life than sit around and make up these symptoms that can be clearly substantiated and send them to me. So what it`s telling us is that, yes, the 12 girls are exhibiting problems, but yet many other people are as well.
PINSKY: It may be the tip of the iceberg.
HLN, I’ll be watching.