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Kids’ cancer prompts tests at park site

Former owner Whirlpool foots bill for study

– Water and ground testing will begin next month at a former park in an area of northern Ohio where cancer has sickened dozens of children for more than a decade.

Soil samples showing high levels of a chemical believed to increase the risk of certain cancers were found in initial tests, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said.

The park once owned by appliance maker Whirlpool Corp. is near the town of Clyde where Whirlpool has a washing machine factory.

Whirlpool said this past week that it will pay for over 300 soil and water samples at the site in the village of Green Springs. The tests are expected to begin in mid or late May.

The U.S. EPA’s report on the findings did not link the contaminants with the cancer cluster that has been under investigation by state and federal agencies for more than six years.

Nearly 40 young people have been diagnosed with cancer since the mid-1990s in the area.

The EPA findings led Whirlpool to seek more testing, said company spokesman Kristine Vernier.

Vernier said she did not know how long it would take to complete the testing.

The park, built in the 1950s by Whirlpool, closed in 2006.

Grist Mill Creek LLC, of Fremont, purchased the property in 2008. An attorney representing Grist Mill Creek said testing will occur with cooperation from the property owners.

The odds are against coming up with an answer for the child illnesses, even with the recent findings, because pinpointing the cause of a cancer cluster rarely happens.

Investigators over the past years have been focusing on a 12-mile-wide circle of mostly farmland just south of Lake Erie.

Many of the diagnoses came between 2002 and 2006, leading state health authorities to declare it a cancer cluster because the number and type of diagnoses exceeded what would be expected.