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News Release

 
   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
  December 18, 2001

George T. DiFerdinando, Jr., MD, MPH
Acting Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Laura Otterbourg or Dennis McGowan
609-984-7160


Background Information on the
Dover Township Childhood Cancer Investigation


The epidemiological study is the final report of the public health response initiated in 1996 to investigate elevated levels of certain childhood cancers in the township. Earlier reports included a childhood cancer incidence health consultation based on an updated compilation of all township children diagnosed with a reportable cancer from 1979 to 1995; public health assessments of Reich Farm and the Ciba-Geigy Superfund sites and the Dover Township Municipal Landfill; and a health consultation on Dover Township's public water supply quality. The total project cost in federal and state funds is estimated at $10 million.

The childhood cancer incidence health consultation examined the number of cancers arising in children under 20 years of age from 1979 through 1995 for Dover Township, the Toms River section of the township, and Ocean County. Increased childhood cancer incidence was found in Dover Township for all cancers combined, and for acute lymphocytic leukemia in females, and in Toms River for all cancers combined, and for brain and central nervous system cancers and acute lymphocytic leukemia, particularly in female children under the age of five. The consultation reported 90 children in the township were diagnosed with cancer where statistically only 67 cases were expected.

Evaluation of childhood cancer incidence over time showed periods when the cancer rates were higher than the rates statewide. Dover Township had higher rates for all cancers combined during the mid-1980s to the early 1990s. Toms River had a distinct peak for all cancers combined in the late 1980s. However, the number of cases in any given year was too small to make any definitive statements on trends.

The Reich Farm public health assessment documented contamination beginning in 1971, when over 4,500 drums of chemical waste were illegally dumped at the site. This led to contaminants entering the Cohansey aquifer, which supplies water to much of the area. In testing of both private and community wells between 1974 and 1996, several volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds were found. The assessment concluded that the site was a public health hazard in the past because area residents, depending on their water source, were previously exposed to site-related contamination for varying periods of time. As a result of actions taken to reduce exposure, the site is considered to pose no apparent public health hazard at present.

The Dover Township Municipal Landfill public health assessment documented that in 1987, nine private wells on roads adjacent to the landfill were found to be contaminated with volatile organic compounds and/or lead. The contaminants found were similar to those found in monitoring wells on the landfill itself. It also documented investigations of private well contamination in the township's Silverton section, beginning in June 1981. At that time, when residents complained of chemical odors and tastes in private well water, but the source of volatile organic compounds found during testing of the water has not been established. The affected private wells near the landfill and in Silverton are no longer in use. The assessment concluded that the landfill was also a public health hazard because of past exposures to groundwater contaminants in nearby private wells but does not represent a public health hazard at present since the exposure has been interrupted.

The Ciba-Geigy public health assessment traced the history of the site back to 1952, when the Toms River Chemical Company began the production of dyes, resins and other chemicals. It detailed the disposal of wastes on-site and discharge of treated wastewater into the Toms River and later through a 10-mile-long pipeline into the Atlantic Ocean. In the mid-1960s, the Holly Street well field, which was a major source for the community water supply, was found to be contaminated. Those wells were later taken out of service and sealed.

The Ciba-Geigy assessment concluded the site was a public health hazard in the past, in part because a potentially large number of people were exposed to site-related contaminants in their drinking water in the mid-1960s. The site is considered to pose no apparent public health hazard at present because of a number of actions that have been taken to protect the community. Contaminated wells that served the public water supply have been closed and affected private wells that had been used for irrigation have been sealed. The plant phased out manufacturing in the early 1990s and ceased operations by 1996. Contaminated groundwater around the site is being pumped out, treated and returned to the aquifer.

The public health consultation on Dover Township's public water supply quality summarized all the results of public drinking water testing conducted since the beginning of the Dover Township childhood cancer investigation in 1996. In most respects, the Dover Township's public water supply appears typical of groundwater-based community water supplies in southern New Jersey. However, water testing results released in 1996 showed that a previously unidentified contaminant -- styrene-acrylonitrile trimer -- was found in samples from certain water system supply wells in the Parkway well field. The trimer, a by-product of plastics manufacturing, is linked to the Reich Farm Superfund site. The USEPA is overseeing research into the potential toxicity of the trimer. Meanwhile, treatment systems have been installed to remove chemicals in water from the affected wells.

# # #

More information on this investigation can be found at the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services' website at www.state.nj.us/health/eoh/hhazweb/dovertwp.htm.

 

 
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Department of Health and Senior Services
P. O. Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

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