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Brockovich Investigator: Fridley's 4 Hazardous Waste Sites 'Extremely Unusual'

Brockovich's environmental investigator has four researchers looking into public records related to Fridley's Superfund sites.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) counts four Fridley locations—FMC Corp., Kurt Manufacturing Co., Fridley Commons Park Well Field and the Naval Industrial Reserve Ordnance Plant—on its Superfund National Priorities List (NPL), the agency’s catalogue of the most hazardous of the nation’s hazardous waste sites.

Bob Bowcock, ’s environmental investigator, has been researching for the past week . He said it was "extremely unusual" for one small town to have four NPL sites within its borders.

“I’ve never seen a town with four of any size outside of Chicago or New York or L.A.,” he said.

There are 1,302 Superfund sites in the United States that fall under the NPL designation and 25 in the state of Minnesota. (There are more than 40,000 Superfund sites nationally.)

Bowcock has assigned four researchers to Fridley’s NPL sites in an effort to conduct a cumulative analysis of how the contamination plumes have interacted and migrated below the streets of Fridley.

Fridley’s NPL sites seem to have been “evaluated in a vacuum,” Bowcock said: He has been unable to find any state or federal research into the complexities caused by having multiple contamination sites within Fridley’s small geographic area.

He said the variations in the community’s seasonal water usage and the chemical similarities of the Fridley sites’ pollutants are among the challenges his team is facing.

“Pour a glass of water on the table, put about 40 straws in it, and half the straws move at half the rate half the time of the year, and, at the same time, you have the migrating snowmelt and spring rain pushing down into the aquifer, moving the chemicals in various directions,” Bowcock said. “There’s a complexity of all the things going on simultaneously.”

A community response
Bowcock is sorting through public record—the history of the superfund sites, the quantity of the chemicals, the length of the plume, the depth of the plume—and comparing Fridley’s contaminated soil with reports of cancer he receives from Fridley residents.

The now has more than 1,800 members, and Bowcock has been leveraging the interest to gather data, asking the group’s members to email him (he gives out his email address, bbowcock@irmwater.com) with diagnoses, addresses and family history.

“This community has really amazed me,” Bowcock said. “They have got it together like none I’ve ever worked with before—I’m getting an email data set every three to four minutes, 24 hours a day.”

State of Minnesota epidemiologist John Soler released data last week showing that than the state average between 2000 and 2009, with lung cancer rates as high as 48 percent among women, according to data from the Minnesota Cancer Surveillance System.

Soler said he expects the 10 percent figure may be an overestimate and cautioned that it was difficult to draw a correlation between elevated cancer rates and environmental factors.

Kelly Stevens Scheidler March 30, 2012 at 05:42 AM
Thats so sad, I'm so sorry for you loss, My dad was a Fridley resident ffom 2005 to 2010. He was sence passed away of a brood clot in his leg
Karen Rorwick-Clark March 30, 2012 at 05:53 PM
We moved to Fridley in 1958 when I was 3 months old and my brother was 2 years old. We lived on Topper Lane which is close to 50th and Main Street right behind FMC. My father died at age 46 of stomach and brain cancer and my brother died at 44 years of lung cancer. Karen Rorwick-Clark
Katie Kozlarek April 05, 2012 at 02:21 PM
My grandfather passed away of small cell lung cancer in 2001 at the age of 66. He was a resident in Fridley for 7 years. My mother passed away of small cell lung cancer in 2010, she was a smoker, however she passed away at the age of 51.
Susan Palmer April 24, 2012 at 08:12 PM
There seems to be so many people who lived in Fridley and died so young - I hope they are looking into age as well. I believe it is very telling. They also should be looking at people who lived for a few years in Fridley, moved away and then died young.
jeff loven July 10, 2012 at 09:15 AM
My wife had cancer and 2 of our direct neighbors have had cancer. Our son has single-sided hearing. Our dog has a huge lump (she is the only member of our family who drinks the water). There is something wrong with the dirt here-my neighbors have perfect lawns and they are paying the price.

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