The president of CAPE (Citizens Against Poisoning the Environment) is concerned that the state Department of Environmental Conservation is not testing enough areas outside of the Belden Center neighborhood to see whether any cancer-causing agents may have seeped out of three landfills there.
Such tests would show that the chemicals from the dump sites are moving and causing cancers in residents, said Fonda M. Hayes, president of the group. "It's not that I don't think that the Department of Environmental Conservation is not trying to do what they can," she said.
The DEC has information from the National Cancer Registry, which was last updated in 1992, she said. In the first phase of the study, the state Health Department only looked at different types of brain cancers, said Mrs. Hayes.
In the second study, which has not yet been completed, the Health Department will look at all types of cancers.
That department reported in November that there were fewer than six brain tumors among the more than 300 residents of Belden Center between 1983 and 1996, and that there was no clear indication of any single cause for the tumors. The department said the exact number of tumors observed was "not reported, in order to protect patients' privacy."
Mrs. Hayes took over for the former president, who had been pushing for the cancer study but did not live to see the results. Robert G. Olszewski died Oct. 15 in Mount St. Mary's Hospital, Lewiston at the age of 35.
A native of Niagara Falls, Olszewski's goal was to have a former industrial dump site near his Lockport Road home placed on the national priority list of toxic dumps and to have the site cleaned up.
Olszewski said two years ago that he became suspicious about health risks from the dump site when he developed a brain tumor. The former dump site is in an undeveloped area just north of the Belden Center neighborhood where Olszewski lived for the last five years.
"Bob was a saint," said Mrs. Hayes, because he still proceeded with trying to get someone to study the area even though he was dying from cancer.
Mrs. Hayes said that her group is asking the community to help with another questionnaire to help them identify former or deceased residents who were diagnosed with cancer who lived in Belden Center. Anyone can receive such a questionnaire by calling Mrs. Hayes at 284-5420 or Eleanor Olszewski, Robert Olszewski's mother, at 297-8230.
Mrs. Hayes said she and her family moved out of Belden Center to Niagara Falls in July to escape the threat of chemicals. Although Mrs. Hayes said her husband suffered from a brain aneurysm and her son had respiratory problems while they lived there, the illnesses could not be linked to the dumps.
"To me, you can't put a price on your life or your children's life . . .
She stressed that the Health Department should be studying everything they can to be able to solve the mystery of the cancers in Belden Center. "I want it to go the full length of what it should go," said Mrs. Hayes.
"If you don't test off site, how do you know that it isn't affecting residents?" she asked.
Claire Pospisil, a spokesperson for the state Health Department, said that the second cancer study should be completed in early 1998. "In Belden Center we did find a higher number than we would expect" of brain tumors, she said. However, the Health Department has to make sure the cancers were brain tumor, and not cancers that had spread from another part of the body to the brain.
There are three hazardous waste sites in Belden Center: the Carborundum-Globar site at the intersection of Rhode Island Avenue and Hyde Park Boulevard, the Vanadium site, which is on Witmer Road, and the Union Carbide site.