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MN Health Dept., City of Fridley Won't Take Part in Brockovich Townhall Meeting

Employees of the City of Fridley and the Minnesota Department of Health have been ordered not to speak at Wednesday evening's town hall meeting to address Fridley citizens' cancer concerns.

Officials from the Minnesota Department of Health and the City of Fridley will attend the on citizen cancer concerns—but they’re under strict orders not to speak.

See here at the Fridley Patch web page.

In a meeting Tuesday afternoon the MDH decided not to participate in the public meeting , said MDH spokesman Doug Schultz.

“We don’t want someone from the department to be in a position where they might be either attacked or surprised or called upon to respond to information that they haven’t seen,” Schultz said.

Schultz wouldn't say which MDH officials were involved in the decision or give other details about the meeting.

In March 2012, the Minnesota Department of Health.

Upon further study, the department later and said the still higher-than-average number of cancer cases in Fridley was nothing more than a statistical anomaly, largely attributable to the .

City of Fridley to Observe Only
Fridley Mayor Scott Lund said some city government officials would likely attend the Brockovich meeting “as a show of support” and concern—"we do care," he said—but the city would leave any talking to its legal representatives.

"It's Erin Brockovich's deal. It's her townhall—not the city's," Lund said Tuesday. "We're not going to steal someone's thunder"

There is “some risk [in] attending, that they'll attempt to engage us [in an] argumentative” exchange,” he said, adding that city officials are “not going to go there.”


State Will Send Someone
At least one state health department representative, likely an assistant commissioner, will be present at the meeting to hear “what the citizens have to say,” according to Schultz, but he said the official will not participate.

“We’ve pretty much provided all the information we have to provide and we’re available to residents at any time,” he said. “We weren’t sure what more we could provide at the meeting.”

Bob Bowcock, Brockovich’s environmental investigator, said he had made plans to include Karla Peterson, supervisor of MDH's Community Public Water Unit, in the town hall meeting. (Peterson appeared on a panel of experts in the City of Fridley's video about "" in April.)

But on Monday, Peterson sent Bowcock an email saying she would be unable to participate. “Somebody at the State pulled the plug because they wanted to participate," Bowcock said. "They asked to participate; I accommodated them; and then they chose not to. So somebody in state government said, ‘Oh, this is dangerous. Don’t do it.’”

In an email exchange provided to Fridley Patch by Bowcock, Peterson requested information about the format of the meeting and the content of formal presentations.

When Bowcock responded that there was no pre-arranged format for the meeting, Peterson said she would not be participating because of "the apparent uncertainty about the structure of the meeting."

"We are also concerned that you may be preparing to discuss potential concerns facing Fridley residents based on information not made available to MDH by your organization," she wrote in an email to Bowcock. "We believe it would be a disservice to meeting attendees if we attempted to respond to your work in an 'off-the-cuff' fashion, without an opportunity to review it first."

Blames Feds More
Bowcock said Minnesota officials’ fears of an “ambush” are misplaced and that in his opinion blame for citizens’ cancer concerns rests more on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—which, he said, passed the buck of regulating and cleaning up pollutants onto underfunded state agencies in the 1980s and ’90s.

“Right now, if anybody gets thrown under the bus tomorrow, it’s going to be EPA,” Bowcock said. “The [FMC Corp.] site received a lot of notoriety in the early '80s because the EPA declared it the No. 1 priority in the nation. So basically to be called out as No. 1 and then forgotten about is kind of pathetic.”

The on its Superfund National Priorities List (NPL), the agency’s catalogue of the most hazardous of the nation’s hazardous waste sites. The EPA’s website states that “because of the threat posed to Minneapolis drinking water, [the FMC] site received one of the highest Hazard Ranking System scores of all sites on the National Priorities List.”

Bowcock said Brockovich’s organization would look at what steps to take next after hearing from Fridley residents Wednesday.

“I’m planning on laying the facts out and seeing where people go with it,” he said. “If people come back and say, ‘Hey that’s bullshit, the EPA shit on us,’ then we’re going to go with it.”

Be sure to check out the Fridley Patch "Cancer Concerns" topic page for all of our posts in one place, including:

  • our ,
  • the ,  
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Sue Anne Kirkham June 27, 2012 at 03:34 PM
I knew the camera-loving Erin Brokovitch was notorious and powerful, but I hadn't realized that she had the authority to deny First Amendment rights to fellow Americans. Very impressive, Ms. B; and very Scary!
C.J. Anderson June 28, 2012 at 03:42 AM
How in the world did she deny first amendment rights to fellow americans?
AKA June 28, 2012 at 04:42 AM
I think your reading comprehension is suspect. City officials who attended were directed by the City to not engage in the discussion and just observe, directing questions to their lawyers...and the MDH took a similar stance and will respond through their representative. That said, other than monitoring, there is really not a whole lot of reason for MDH to even have a response, other than from a reporting point of view. Basically, neither wanted to be engaged in accusations in what is a topic that still needs a lot of data to come forth before a conclusion is even drawn. Despite that, there is a lot of potential for upset people and neither wanted to provoke a confrontational situation. In terms of an open discussion, it serves no one. From all of this discussion, even if there are no definitive health impacts, the environmental impact and the lack of accountability on the part of the entities that created the situation is fairly disturbing.

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