For Fridley Health Fair, Cancer Cluster Facebook Group's Invite Is Up in Air

State and city agencies can't agree on what role the Fridley Cancer Cluster Facebook group will be allowed to play at next Wednesday's "health fair."

Debate is raging about whether to allow members of the to set up camp at a public "health fair" scheduled for next Wednesday in which Fridley residents will be able to pose questions about the city’s water testing, Superfund sites and cancer rates.

During the fair, , officials from the City of Fridley, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be available to speak one-on-one with members of the public. Officials from the Anoka County Public Health, the American Lung Association, the Mercy and Unity Hospitals Wellness Program, and the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute have also been invited to set up tables at the fair.

Cluster Group Too?
But city and state officials cannot agree on whether to allow members of the Facebook group to set up a booth and answer questions.

“I feel this is our opportunity with the Department of Health and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to explain our side of things to the general public, and I’m not sure that having the Cancer Cluster group there fulfills that goal,” Fridley City Manager Bill Burns said. “I think the city should avoid any kind of back-and-forth argumentation with that group and that’s not the purpose of our health fair—I don’t want to compete with them.”

Burns told Pam Reynolds, a Cancer Cluster group member, that she could not represent the group at the health fair.

The MPCA hasn’t taken as hard a line against the Cancer Cluster group’s official attendance. Spokesman Sam Brungardt said he thought it could be acceptable to have Jason McCarty, the group’s founder, or an “appointed representative” manning a table. (McCarty will be out of town that day.)

But Brungardt said the MPCA would also not allow Reynolds to represent the Cancer Cluster group at the fair because she's "running for office."

Reynolds, twice an unsuccesful candidate for mayor of Fridley, did not file as a candidate for mayor this year. She said in an email Thursday that she tells past supporters, "'Hey you can always write me in.' ... It doesn't mean I'm running a campaign."

The health fair is no place for electoral politics, according to MPCA's Brungart. “The purpose of the health fair is to have Fridley residents’ questions answered by officials,” he said. “Its purpose is not for providing a forum for people running for office.”

The General Public
Burns, the Fridley city manager, said Mayor Scott Lund and most city council members will likely be in attendance at the health fair, but noted that if the MPCA or MDH decide to allow Cancer Cluster members to set up a table at the fair, he would “consider our options”—repeating that the fair is designed “for the general public.”

Reynolds said that even if she were an official candidate, she did not think that fact should preclude her participation in the health fair as a member of the Fridley Cancer Cluster.

"Funny the mayor is allowed to participate in his various community involvements without being accused of using them to launch his campaign or further his political aspirations," she said.

McCarty, the Cancer Cluster Facebook group founder, agreed with this sentiment.

"If the mayor has a table, wouldn't it be fair to also let Pam have one?" he said.

Reynolds said she will be in attendance at the health fair, though not in an official capacity, and she believes the Facebook Cancer Cluster group will make another attempt for a table at the fair.

Capitol Idea
Brungardt said the idea for the fair came out of and the discussion at that meeting about the need to better educate citizens about how city, county and state agencies address public health concerns.

“Coming out of that legislative meeting, there were some suggestions about a need to make ourselves available to the public if people had questions about cancer or the drinking water in Fridley,” Brungardt said.

Karen Rorwick-Clark August 16, 2012 at 09:21 PM
If it's really a "Health Fair" wouldn't you think having the Fridley Cancer Cluster group there to let people be aware that maybe they should talk to their doctor about possible early screening because of some chemicals they might have been previously exposed to. I sure know my family would have loved to have known about this exposure when we lived in Fridley from 1958 to 2000. Had we know the facts about what we might have been exposed to my father might not have died of cancer at 46 and my brother at 44. We had a water well in our yard and not only did we use it for watering our yard but all the neighbor kids used to drink from it when outside. In fact I don't remember a neighbor that didn't have a private well. Had we known that TCE was in the well water we would have never drank it or used it since it also evaporated into the air. Karen Rorwick-Clark
Bryan Reynolds August 16, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Funny that the City of Fridley, Bill Burns, and the MPCA think they can trump the first amendment due to not wanting "argumentation." The event is taking place on public property, therefore anyone applying that has cause to participate should be allowed to do so. Just because the City and its minions do not like what the people have to say does not give them the right to stifle the voice of the people. Personally, I hope the City and MPCA decide to deny access to the group. That would make for a sweet lawsuit for a Constitutional lawyer to take all the way to the Supreme Court. If they do deny the group a table, I hope the group organizes a protest and sets up shop outside. Talk about argumentation. What a joke.
Julie Knutson August 16, 2012 at 09:25 PM
Argumentation?? wow...that's an interesting choice of words for Bill (Fridley City Manager) to use. Well...they could very well get a lot of arguments from folks if they don't have the answers or solutions that people are looking for. Folks are not going to be poo poo'd anymore. We have a lot of questions that we would like answers to and don't seem to be getting those by using the normal channels. Hopefully they will have those and be more than willing to share those answers at the health fair. This isn't just about the water; it's also about plumes, ground and soil and it's not just about cancer..it's about a lot of other health issues that are a huge concern. The need to educate citizens on HOW the city, county and state agencies address public health concerns is a good one and will be very interesting to hear what those agencies have to say. I'm looking forward to it.
Wendy Olson August 17, 2012 at 12:52 AM
As it states in the article above, the "Health Fair" is is the result of an idea that "came out of a meeting convened by state Sen. Barb Goodwin at the Minnesota Capitol in mid-July and the discussion at that meeting about the need to better educate citizens about how city, county and state agencies address public health concerns." The Facebook group presented their concerns at the "Town Hall" public meeting with Erin Brockovich and Bob Bowcock back in June and I think they have made their position on the agencies' responses quite clear in a number of different forums. Last time I checked, this Facebook group was not a city, county, or state agency, and would not be an appropriate group for this venue.
Pam Reynolds August 17, 2012 at 02:05 AM
Wendy I believe that Council member Bolkcom spoke about having a City version of a Townhall meeting to address the concerns that were brought forward by the citizens of Fridley at the Brockovich meeting before the meeting with Barb Goodwin. The Fridley Cancer Cluster group had discussed, on the Facebook page, the need to reach out to those in the community who perhaps did not have computer access and may be totally unaware of the problems. When the Health Fair was announced the group felt that being involved would allow for that outreach. In order to solve a problem you must first determine how large the problem is. The goal of the group was to collect additional data, on cancer cases and other auto immune diseases, in Fridley and perhaps for those who had moved elsewhere. There is no requirement that a group or individual be a "government agency or entity" to take part in a government sponsored forum. I will verify my original statement and post the info later.
Pam Reynolds August 17, 2012 at 02:13 AM
On a side note: Be afraid, be very afraid when the government wishes to educate you. I have read the government reports and fully comprehend what they say. I don't need the government to tell me," No this is what we really meant." I worked at the arsenal for years and attended the funerals of many friends who died of various types of cancer. Your government will educate you to believe that unless it is the same type of cancer it's not an issue. How do we just accept that 50% of the population will die from some form of cancer and not ask why that is acceptable?
Julie Knutson August 17, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Wendy....the Cluster doesn't make a city of themselves...but many of them are residents of the city of Fridley and the Community Center is paid for by the very taxes we pay or have paid to the city.
Pam Reynolds August 17, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Wendy here is the video. A full 9 days before the meeting at the capital. http://fridleytv.pegcentral.com/player.php?video=5a402057c504f45c9cb0652a4bb4db36
G San August 18, 2012 at 01:15 AM
It is not always the case that the State and Federal agencies know what they are talking about, in fact if they did, there wouldn’t be the need for this “tell our side of the story” Health Fair in the first place. If you want to believe that these agencies are having this fair to inform you that you’re safe, well then you are right. But, if you want to know the truth about what is really happening in your City and Community, then the Fridley Cancer Cluster Face book group should be allowed to have a table at the Tell our Side of the Story Health Fair. The people from the Cancer Cluster Group are your neighbors, they are the people who live and work in the community, and some of them are suffering from someone else’s profit, employment, or political chair. Now as for the Fridley City Manager Bill Burns, what side of the story is he talking about, is this a story to him or are people suffering, and he’s trying to cover it up. And who is Bill Burns to say who can represent who, is that part of his job description. Pam Reynolds seems to be a good choice, she‘s not running for office, looks a little hypocritical to me, practice what you preach.
Mandy Meisner August 20, 2012 at 07:42 PM
Ladies & Gentlemen of the Cluster, I understand your feelings of feeling unwelcome. You present a valid perspective and of course want your voice to be heard. But, the City does have a right to choose who they want to be featured as presenters, since they are the organizers of this particular event. It apprears they want "experts" from various fields. The Cluster would not fall into this category. If you'd like Pam to be your representative she could certainly ask/challenge any information to any and all of the respresented departments. The Cluster has every right to be there and speak their mind. Perhaps you could organize your own Cluster Town Hall, Health Fair (whatever forum you'd like best) to "tell your seide of the story" if you feel that hasn't been done adequately enough already.
Mandy Meisner August 20, 2012 at 07:43 PM
Oh sorry, "in my opinion" as requested from Jason.
G San August 21, 2012 at 05:46 PM
M. Meisner: Is this a game to you? Feeling’s of being unwelcome has nothing to do with the human and constitutional rights of the people to protect their families. This tell our side of the story health fair should be for all the Citizens of the Community and the Citizens of the State of Minnesota for that matter. So, unfortunately for you and the State, City, County, Federal and Polluting Companies (all as one) the members of the Face Book Group are Citizens of the Community and State, and should be allowed to have a table at the fair. This table isn’t to fight with your side, if that’s what you want to call it, it’s to inform, and to collect information. Trust me, the Government will be collecting all of the peoples information to put in there (do nothing list) and to monitor those who dare to speak out.
Mary Jo Theis August 21, 2012 at 07:42 PM
I couldn't agree with more with GSan. People have and are dying of something terrible in Fridley. I am sick of all who bash the cancer cluster because of their quest for answers, The sarcasm and lack of empathy by these bashers in their blogs are beyond explanation. Are they scared it could be them next and they need to be in denial or are they so self righteous they feel entitled to belittle. You want an expert, I am one of life's experts. I dealt with the death of my entire family .
Mandy Meisner August 21, 2012 at 07:51 PM
I am truly sorry a conversation can't be had here. Reasonable solutions are out there, if we are up to the challnge of working together. I'm not sure why you preceive sarcasm, or bashing of any kind from me. That is not my intention ( "In my opinion" ).
Mary Jo Theis August 21, 2012 at 08:22 PM
Hmmm.. I don't see any names mentioned in my comment and was only directed to those who meet the criteria.
Chris Steller (Editor) August 21, 2012 at 09:02 PM
I appreciate everyone's comments and your efforts to keep it civil. It can be difficult to interpret the tone of another commenter when we're all typing onto our screens. In case anyone feels like a fresh start, there is an update post on this topic now at: http://patch.com/A-xh5H. And the event itself will be a chance for all kinds of in-person greetings.
Wendy Olson August 21, 2012 at 10:04 PM
The "health fair" is an unfortunate misnomer. If the Facebook group wants to do community outreach and gather information, they should create a committee to develop a scientific survey that could collect usable data to back up their perceptions that more people are dying of illness in Fridley than anywhere else in the state. That's what the group claims their purpose is (collecting information) and that's what they should be doing, but they should be collecting valid, usable data if they want to be credible. They have nothing to "inform" the public with at this point except their suspicions, so this event would not be an appropriate forum for their table. These agencies are under no obligation to allow the Facebook group to have a table here any more than they have an obligation to allow me to set one up to answer questions on what I think about all this. These agencies are going to answer questions based on the facts they have. The Facebook group may claim to have lots of facts, but as of now they have yet to be pared down to relevant facts that prove residents were exposed to unhealthy amounts of chemicals and that residents got sick as a result of that exposure and that the government is to blame and has been covering up. It looks like you still have a long way to go to make those connections, so shouldn't you be focusing on that?
Wendy Olson August 21, 2012 at 10:09 PM
I would also like to address the perception being put forward here that people who question the methods of the Facebook group are somehow untouched by illness and death. I am no more immune to that than anyone else on this earth and I find it very offensive to imply that you have cornered the market on grief, empathy, and compassion. Just because I don't agree with you doesn't make either one of us a bad person. I see more of the behavior claimed above coming out of the Facebook page than from any other source, which I why I "revoked" my membership in that group a long time ago.
jeff loven August 23, 2012 at 07:24 AM
Hey-I have an idea!!! Instead of joining any group or seeking help from any agency (all of which have said they can't help me) I'm just going to do everything myself!! I'm going to have my property tested for soil vapor intrusion and also the water and soil tested. I will be testing for exposure to a number of VOCS and other contaminants. If I find no exposure on my property then I'm good to go. IF I find TCE or other contaminants I'm going to march right back to MPCA, EPA and others and hope they will do the right thing. I have been told that I would have to find a responsible polluter but I find this laughable and insulting. It is not my job to find ANY polluter. The City of Fridley along with the EPA, MPCA and MDH have an obligation to keep citizens safe from toxic pollution. (3 out of 4 of my immediate neighbors are cancer survivors, dead from cancer or have cancer. My wife also is a cancer survivor and our son was born with single sided hearing. The guy who built our home died in it from...cancer. Coincidence...?...)
jeff loven August 23, 2012 at 07:36 AM
Here's a Facebook message I received from CA from someone active with combatting pollution and trying to work thru government agencies and polluters. I'm not sure what to make of this statement so I brought it to the Healthfare and showed it to a few of the folks there. I guess at the Boise Cascade/onan site (nearest my house)--the Cummins people pay a lab to do the monitoring and that lab reports to MPCA. Probably silly to think there would be any reason for a large company to pay off a lab and/or government officials. "You get your home tested and ASAP!!! Screw them! They function on bribes, payoffs, trades and all without regard for you, your family or anyone but themselves for that matter.... Test test test!! Look up www.BasicLab.com and locate the AFFORDABLE test you need. They are one of (3) testing facilities we've found who's not influenced by the owners of this country."
G San August 24, 2012 at 04:52 AM
I was not able to make the Health Fair on Wednesday, but I would love to hear the outcome. Could someone drop a line and update on fair?
G San August 24, 2012 at 05:00 AM
Jeff, I believe Erin Brockovich said her people would be conducting some testing, you should consider talking to her to see if she could test your property. I would be careful about hiring a testing firm from here in Minnesota, the State and Industry have most testing firms here tied up.
jeff loven August 24, 2012 at 07:18 AM
The Brokovich people have our case . I was only able to visit a couple of the tables at the fair but was somewhat impressed with their presentation. I asked difficult questions without being difficult . The MPCA staffers for the Cummins superfund site showed me where they drilled for testing-ie the company that Cummins (or whoever is the superfund site tenants) hired. The MPCA actually does not do the testing--the lab the companies hire do the testing and that lab gives their results to the MPCA. So "X" company hires/pays "X" company to say it's okay to the feds. I actually showed these guys the note from CA where someone told me agencies involved act on bribes/etc and another guy was sorta listening in and he grabbed a book from behind the display table that resembled a phone book with the test results from the lab. If I had time I would've scrutinized the phone book prop but I was late for work. I asked if there could be testing done on areas where people actually live and they said there didn't need to be any testing because the plume was contained . I should tell you that city workers from St Louis Park <the EPA tested 41 homes in St Louis Pk in 2008 and found them contaminated with TCE vapor intrusion and fitted those homes with remediation sysytem at no cost to the owners> have told me that there CAN be vapor migration from a plume and that you do not have to be directly over it to be affected and have vapor intrusion.
jeff loven August 24, 2012 at 07:23 AM
Test your homes. The downside is that if an exposure is found in many homes you will see a mass exodus of homeowners leaving the city and property values plummet (can they actually go any lower?). Most people will not want to pay their property tax if their property is contaminated and this would be a huge problem for the city of Fridley and other agencies...


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