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Brockovich tests for clues in teens' medical mystery

  • Environmental investigators testing soil & water in New York
  • Erin Brockovich tells Dr. Drew why the case of ill teens is so unusual
  • Expert says clean-up of toxic site may have made things worse

Famed environmental activist Erin Brockovich sent her team over the weekend to look into whether a chemical spill from a 1970s train derailment had anything to do with an illness that's affecting 15 girls and one boy.

Environmental investigator and longtime Brockovich associate Bob Bowcock took soil and water samples in and around Le Roy, New York. However, he was told by school district officials that he was not to take any samples from school grounds.

“Well, if they're not going to let them get a couple of samples, they should know that it makes them look like they're trying to hide something,” said Lydia Parker, one of the teens suffering from the illness.

When Bowcock arrived at the derailment site, he was surprised to find an untended cleanup site, noting that some of the storage drums were leaking and corroded. “Fifty-five gallon drums are rotting away, leaking material out into the environment right now,” he said. “Draw your own conclusion.”

Read More: HLN's complete coverage of the New York Medical Mystery

Dr. Drew asked Brockovich and Bowcock why this was unlike anything either of them has ever seen.

“It took agencies so long to respond to a spill -- 25 years,” Brockovich said.

Dr. Drew interjected, “So was there leaching of the spill for 25 years?"

Brockovich replied, “Absolutely.”

Bowcock also stated that the site itself has been rendered into a toxic dump.

“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,” he said.

Brockovich added, "We've done this for 21 years, and to see agency report, a federal agency report that discloses in the bedrock the levels of TCE are at 550 parts per million, neither he nor I, in our 21-plus years of experience, have ever seen where they've actually been able to show those concentrations.”

Bowcock concluded, "This one is just standing out like a sore thumb -- the toxic dump and the derailment site. The derailment site is actually where the toxic dump is. What concerns us the most is that the care that's been given to the cleanup of this has actually exacerbated or made the problem worse.”

Dr, Drew also asked about how the water table is pushing the chemicals.

“It's being pushed and pulled,” he said.

Brockovich added, “The phenomenon -- where the water rises and gets into the bedrock and pushes it out."

Dr. Drew noted, “What we need to now figure out is where it's concentrating and find out if the girls have been exposed to one of these, and find this.”

In the video clip above, hear Brockovich talk about people who’ve written to her that live in this vicinity with similar medical problems.

“It may be the tip of the iceberg,” Dr. Drew said.

To follow every update in this developing story, don't miss Dr. Drew weeknights at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT on HLN and follow on Twitter @DrDrewHLN

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