The Buffalo News - Buffalo News Editorials

Cancer cluster

Another avenue to explore in state health probe


Allegations by former workers that dangerous chemicals were flushed into a Town of Tonawanda creek decades ago ought to draw some concentrated attention from state Health Department officials probing high cancer rates in that area. While it remains almost impossible to prove definitive links between current diseases and long-ago pollution, the first step in curtailing problems lies in properly identifying them.

The workers now speaking out about the discharge of chemicals and industrial dyes into Two Mile Creek from the former Western Electric plant add a major dimension to concerns that, until now, have focused mostly on the possibility of Manhattan Project radioactive wastes at the nearby Linde/Praxair plant site.

Western Electric's successor, Lucent Technologies, also ought to play an active and transparent part in that investigation. There may be little the company can contribute in the form of documents - the flushing of chemicals into sewers apparently took place before wastewater discharges were regulated, and Western Electric itself is defunct as a separate company. But moral corporate citizenship would entail searching any remaining records and encouraging the participation of former employees in any investigation, including those who may have signed silence agreements as part of compensation settlements.

There is an overriding community interest in determining not only the extent of contamination but the possible location and impacts of residual toxins. Such information can be vital not only in targeting any remediation that may be needed but also in land use decision-making, including construction of community buildings or residential neighborhoods.

The pursuit of blame, three or four decades removed from practices that may not have been illegal, is not as important as the quest to limit health threats for this part of the Town of Tonawanda.

Copyright 1999 - 2003 - The Buffalo News

(Emphasis by Don)


It took a letter written in 1996 to the NY State Department of Health to instigate the recently started cancer study in the Town of Tonawanda.

It's going to take more than just talking about it. Residents have to get off of their mental and physical duffs and apply themselves to the problems. "Should'a, could'a, would'a" further down the road just ain't gonna get it done.

Don Finch