Erin Brockovich uncovers possible break in medical mystery on 'Dr. Drew'
At least 15 high school students in Le Roy, N.Y. are suffering from the same mysterious illness that's causing Tourette-like outbursts.
In an eye-opening interview Friday night, environmental activist Erin Brockovich talked to HLN’s “Dr. Drew” about the findings in her own investigation.
“I think the first thing that hit me in my gut was, ‘well, you haven't necessarily ruled anything and everything in or out,’” she said. “It just seemed to be a very quick diagnosis.”
Brockovich explained how one of the affected family members received a note in their mailbox about a 1971 train derailment.
“The contaminated rock, fill and soil was used to build the new school,” she said. “We are still trying to corroborate that [story]."
She immediately researched the derailment, and discovered it had caused one ton of cyanide to spill and 45,000 gallons of Trichloroethylene (TCE).
“I have read and been involved in cases that we have that,” she said. “TCE can be associated with neurological disorders.”
Brockovich noted that the actual location of the site of derailment was four miles from the school.
“The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry did not get out to the spill sight until the 90s as did the EPA,” she said. “It took them 20 years to go out and investigate. So by the time they had gotten out there and investigated, this contamination was in the bedrock. They concluded … the concentrations are so heavy that this agency had to dilute those samples just to get a reading … They have a phenomenon that this agency has reported that every year where the water table rises, this bedrock is submerged and pulses of TCE and this contaminant comes out and goes into the groundwater, and it has created a plume in 1999. They confirmed that that plume was four miles to the East-Southeast, and at the leading edge of this groundwater plume - it was a mile wide.”
Dr. Drew questioned, “Four miles would put it right at the high school, would it not?”
Brockovich replied, “Yes.”
Dr. Drew continued, “It might even put it at the athletic field that's come into question where families have reported seeing strange things coming up.”
Brockovich responded, “Family has reported that there's an orange-yellow substance. It almost oozes from the ground - that’s on the children’s clothing – shoes - the equipment.”
Dr. Drew asked, “When they found it in '99, why didn't they do something about it?”
Brokovich replied, “In '99 they did. They were supposed to get into a pre-remedial design and looking at a soil vapor extraction system. [The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry] did a lot of detail here. They concluded the plume was not defined in '99 - that if it was not remediated. It would continue to go on indefinitely … I have never yet seen a case until today that it took an agency 20 years to respond.”
Brockovich also said that she has been inundated with e-mails from people across America and Le Roy.
"They reported several things of concern beyond just this, and that is that where the old school is, there is a creek, and there has been known chemical dumping, and some of the children report playing in that creek as children and uncovering 55 gallon barrels ... we don't know what - the [new] school has five natural gas wells underneath its property. What we're concerned about with that is not that these gas wells, which were not disclosed could be harming the kids, but it could be controlling migration of the plume ...it could be pulling it to them."
Dr. Drew concluded, “Even if it turns out this has nothing to do with the neurological symptoms the girls are having, we have a bigger story here. The things that Erin is uncovering definitely causes cancer and thousands of lives may be at risk here if we don't do something about this, or at least be sure this doesn't remain a risk for people."
Erin Brockovich will be sending a team to New York for further investigation. Be sure to watch the show weeknights at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT and follow the show on Twitter @DrDrewHLN.