In the small town of Waycross, Georgia, 4 children were diagnosed with cancer during a 2-month period in 2015. Lawyers are investigating if decades of toxic chemical spills and dumping are to blame.
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Toxic Waste in Waycross, Georgia
Waycross, Georgia is a town with a population of around 15,000 people. In the center of town is a massive toxic pollution site called the Rice Yard complex, now owned by the railroad CSX Transportation.
In 1985, Georgia discovered that hazardous chemicals, such as solvents and paint-thinners, were dumped underground or buried in shallow pits. The state ordered CSX Transportation to monitor the underground migration of toxic chemicals, beginning in the mid-1990s.
CSX Railroad Monitoring Pollution Under Waycross
The Rice Yard complex underneath Wacross, Georgia is enormous. The toxic waste “plume” spreads out for 755 acres and goes deep underground. The site borders streams that could carry pollution even further away.
There are also abandoned wells in the region that could potentially carry toxins deep underground — especially if the wells wee not properly sealed off after they were abandoned. Experts are concerned that toxic chemicals could leak into the water supply.
Toxic Waste Dumps Near Homes
Inspectors have cited companies for dumping toxic chemicals close to homes where children were recently diagnosed with cancer. When the inspectors tested the toxic chemicals, they found high levels of cancer-causing trichloroethylene (TCE). They also fond methylene chloride, a paint stripper that could potentially cause cancer.
Childhood Cancer Outbreak in Waycross
Four children in the Waycross area were diagnosed with rare types of cancer within a 60-day period in 2015, raising concerns that toxic chemicals in the water supply or the environment may be responsible.
Three of the children developed rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer that usually starts in the muscles or other soft tissues. One child was diagnosed with a related type of cancer called Ewing’s sarcoma, which starts in bones or the soft tissues touching the bones.
Health Department Won’t Call it a “Cluster”
Despite the extremely unusual circumstances, the Georgia Department of Public Health has refused to call the outbreak a “cluster.” They say rhabdomyosarcoma and Ewing’s sarcoma have no known link to toxic chemicals. Furthermore, 2 children lived in Waycross and drank city water, while 2 children lived in tiny communities within 14 miles of Waycross and drank water from wells.
Is the Water Clean or Safe?
Waycross officials continue to insist that the water supply is clean, but they have little evidence to back that up. Testing on the water has been inconsistent. They have been even less consistent about closing off old abandoned wells that could carry toxic chemicals from the surface into the water system deep underground — and far away.
Cancer Outbreak is Extremely Unusual
The outbreak of cancer is extremely unusual. There are only about 350 cases of rhabdomyosarcoma in the U.S. per year. Ewing’s sarcoma is even more rare, with only 250 cases every year in the U.S.
How Can a Lawyer Help?
The families of some children with cancer in Waycross, Georgia are asking lawyers for help. They may eventually file lawsuits or a class action for everyone who was exposed. The work is just starting — toxicologists are testing in the neighborhoods of children with cancer.
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