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Le Roy

February 2, 2012 - 4:07pm
posted by Billie Owens in Le Roy, Milestones.

Roberts Wesleyan College is pleased to announce the following students were named to the Deans' List for their outstanding academic performance for the Fall 2011 semester:

Katherine Kovatch, of LeRoy, received High Honors.

Paul Stedman, of Le Roy, received High Honors.

High Honors are given to students with grade-point averages range from 3.7 to 3.89 on a scale of 4.0

Roberts Wesleyan College has had a tradition of excellence since 1866. It is a leader among liberal arts colleges with a Christian worldview and offers more than 57 undergraduate programs, as well as graduate programs in education, school psychology, school counseling, health administration, nursing education, nursing leadership and administration, strategic marketing, social work and strategic leadership.

It also offers innovative undergraduate degree-completion programs for working adults in health administration, nursing, organizational management, and teacher education. For more information, visit www.roberts.edu.

February 2, 2012 - 3:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in steve hawley, Le Roy.

Note: Hawley's office issued this press release Wednesday, but I didn't see the email until just now, but thought it still important to post:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R, I, C – Batavia) is working with state and local officials to diligently address the health issues facing Western New Yorkers. In the wake of the disturbing developments regarding Tourette's-like symptoms displayed by 12 students attending Le Roy Junior-Senior High School, the assemblyman is doubling down on his efforts to protect the health of the entire Western New York community.

“The strength of our community relies on the health, safety and happiness of Western New Yorkers, and I am committed to making sure that no stone is left unturned in the quest to protect those needs,” Hawley said. “By working with health and environmental officials at the federal, state and local levels, I am pursuing every channel to ensure that we are doing everything in our power to prevent threats to the community’s health.”

The assemblyman has spoken directly with both state Health Commissioner Nirav Shah and state Department of Environmental Commissioner Joe Martens to share his concerns regarding the developing tragedy in Leroy.

“The situation in Le Roy is infinitely tragic, and swift action is imperative,” Hawley continued. “Above all else, it is the duty of public servants to protect our children, seniors and families. Nothing takes priority over the health of our fellow Western New Yorkers.”

February 1, 2012 - 6:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy.

Let's start with PANDAS.

Every day, I get emails and phone calls from all over the country from people saying, "the cause of the tics must be PANDAS."

PANDAS stands for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections. Some people who contact us claim that PANDAS should now be called PANS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neurological Syndrome). I've even heard the word "pediatric" should be removed.

The original theory was that PANDAS was caused by a strep infection, but some researchers apparently now believe that the disorder can be caused by any infection.

School and state officials have repeatedly said -- including at the Jan. 11 community meeting and in subsequent press releases -- that PANDAS and infections have been ruled out.

Late last week, I requested an interview with Dr. Gregory Young, who originally told the community PANDAS had been ruled out. The request was simple: I'd like to get more detail on why PANDAS was ruled out.

Jeffrey Hammond, the spokesman for the DOH got back to me on Monday and referred me to Dr. Laszlo Mechtler, the DENT neurologist who made the conversion disorder diagnosis and has been quoted as blaming the stress the girls are reportedly under on post-9/11 terror warnings.

I left two messages at Mechtler's office yesterday. When I called this morning, I spoke with DENT's marketing director, Maria Caserta.

Caserta was initially helpful, but 30 minutes after confirming an interview time for Thursday, Caserta emailed to cancel the interview.

When I squawked, Caserta responded that Dr. Mechtler was canceling the interview because The Batavian revealed he has taken more than $150,000 in payments from phrama companies.

Caserta wrote, "Please note: Dr. Mechtler speaks for pharmaceuticals on a professional basis related to Headaches and Brain Tumors. He is no way affiliated with these pharma companies in relation to Gardasil or Cervarix."

Duely noted.

I immediately informed Hammond that Mechtler was unwilling to share with the community the reason behind ruling out PANDAS and requested another avenue of information, but as yet, Hammond has not responded to the email.

I've also emailed the DEC, EPA and DOH, in some cases, multiple times, trying to get more detail on claims by the school district that environmental testing has taken place.

On Saturday morning, Superintendent Kim Cox initially claimed soil and water testing had been done at the school, but when pressed for details, she said she wasn't actually sure what had been done.

In a letter to the community this morning, Cox said, "All of these agencies and professionals from these agencies have assured us that our school is safe.There is no evidence of an environmental or infectious cause." ... and ... "The school was tested for total Volatile Organic Compounds by an independent firm."

So my second attempt in 24 hours to get more details on environmental testing -- what was tested (soil, air, water, inside and outside the building), when and by whom, elicited the following email.

“DOH reviewed both the epidemiology and the clinical evaluations and found no evidence of environmental or infection as the cause of the girls’ illness.”

“An environmental exposure would affect many people. The treating physicians ruled out PANDAS. The school was tested for Volatile Organic Compounds (including TCE) by the independent firm. The school is served by a public water system. The Guardasil vaccine was ruled out because many of the girls did not receive the vaccine. Despite the evidence, the Le Roy School District chose to pursue environmental testing."

“DOH has reviewed 12 cases and we are aware of three new suspected cases. The three new suspected cases are being evaluated by private medical professionals who will then share the evaluations with DOH. DOH will evaluate the new suspected cases are part of our Le Roy investigation.”

"People are free to pursue additional environmental testing."

Additional background perspective:

    - The Genessee County Health Department contacted us in October
    - Epidemiology is the study of the causes, distribution and control of disease in populations.
    - DOH conducted a scientific literature review.
    - The department continues to monitor the cases.

    - The school district’s website has copies of the environmental review, in case you don't have them. Here’s the link to the school’s site: http://www.leroycsd.org/. The documents are found under the “important message” section.

    - Questions about the Lehigh Valley railroad site should be directed to the EPA. Mike Basile, 716-xxx-xxx, [email protected]

    - HIPAA prevents DOH from sharing the diagnoses. That is a question for the private physicians (Dent Neurology) who have been treating the girls.

I immediately responded to Hammond requesting more detail -- again, who is the independent firm, were soil and water samples taken, etc.? So far, no response from Hammond, though he did issue a press release late this afternoon that includes detailed information on interior water testing.

February 1, 2012 - 5:35pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy.

Press release:

New York State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D, MPH today announced that the department has secured an agreement with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that the NIH will provide the Le Roy High School students suffering from tic-like symptoms with a free, independent third-party evaluation of their cases.

The evaluations will be performed under the auspices of Dr. Mark Hallett and Dr. Susan Swedo of the NIH Institute on Neurology in Bethesda, Maryland, at no cost for the specialized consultation or for travel and accommodation costs of the students and their families.

The Department of Health is sending information on this opportunity to visit NIH to the parents and families of those affected by this illness and urges them to take advantage of this opportunity to be examined by these experts.

Dr. Hallett is currently NIH’s Chief of the Medical Neurology Branch and Chief of its Human Motor Control Section. He is currently the principal investigator of a clinical study of the diagnosis and natural history of patients with neurological conditions.

Dr. Swedo is currently chief of the Pediatrics and Developmental Neuroscience Branch at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Dr. Swedo and her NIMH team were the first to identify a new subtype of childhood disorder thought to be related to streptococcal infections known as Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections (PANDAS). Dr. Swedo's work has led to the development of several possible therapies for the condition.

“The Department of Health understands that parents and students in the Le Roy School District are seeking more information on the tic-like symptoms that have presented in some students in the Jr./S.r High School,” Dr. Shah said. “Based on the clinical evaluations of the patients and the pattern in which these cases presented, the department continues to believe that there is no environmental or infectious cause of these illnesses or public health threat to the community.”

At the request of the school district, water samples from the school were tested at the department’s Wadsworth Laboratory in Albany. The department analyzed three drinking water samples taken on Jan. 25, 2012 from the Le Roy High School by the Genesee County Health Department. Two samples were taken from areas frequented by students (student laboratory and kitchen). The third sample was taken where public water enters the building and is representative of water quality in the Monroe County Water Authority (MCWA) distribution system that supplies the high school and the surrounding area. The analyses of these samples were completed on Jan. 30, 2012.

The results show nothing out of the ordinary. All three samples meet state and federal drinking water standards. The water quality in the student areas was no different from the water quality in the area around the high school. In addition, all three samples were consistent with the normally expected water quality for the entire Monroe County Water Authority (MCWA) service area. The only chemical detections to note were three disinfection by-products, the earth metal barium, and fluoride. All of these detected chemicals were at levels that are within state and federal drinking water standards. The disinfection by-products were found at levels consistent with entire the MCWA service area. Disinfection by-products occur at all drinking water systems that chlorinate surface water and result from the reaction of the primary disinfectant (chlorine) with naturally occurring organic material found in all surface waters of the state. The detected barium comes from Lake Ontario and is consistent with the level normally present in MCWA's water. Fluoride is added by MCWA for dental protection purposes and the level detected is MCWA's optimal target level for fluoride.

Detected Chemical Range of Levels Detected Maximum Contaminant Level
Disinfection Byproducts:
Chloroform 27 - 28 (ug/L or ppb) *
Bromodichloromethane 10 (ug/L or ppb) *
Dibromochloromethane 2.8 (ug/L or ppb) *
Total Disinfection Byproducts = 39.8 - 40.8 (ug/L or ppb) 80 (ug/L or ppb)
Barium 0.018 - 0.019 (mg/L or ppm) 2 (mg/L or ppm)
Fluoride 0.7 (mg/L or ppm)) 2.2 (mg/L or ppm)

 

February 1, 2012 - 12:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy.

Via email from Bill Albert at Harris Beach:

Letter to the Community

February 1, 2012

Over the past few days, activities that have occurred in our community with respect to environmental testing by a representative who claimed to be working on behalf of Erin Brockovitch have taken center stage. This has been a distraction and taken us away from our mission to return normalcy to our school District, which every medical professional says is critical for the health and well-being of all students in our schools. As we have communicated, we have been working closely for months with numerous medical professionals, the New York State Department of Health, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency. All of these agencies and professionals from these agencies have assured us that our school is safe. There is no evidence of an environmental or infectious cause. Environmental causes would not discriminate. We would see a wide range of people affected. 

The community should take assurance that the Department of Health concluded extensive reviews of both the epidemiology and the clinical evaluations and found no evidence of environmental or infection as the cause of the students’ illness. Again, an environmental exposure would affect many people. The school was tested for total Volatile Organic Compounds by an independent firm. The school is served by the Monroe County Water Authority. This system is monitored on a regular basis. In addition, we have just been informed that water samples taken from the inside of the school as an additional precaution have been tested and determined to be safe. The treating physicians at the Dent Institute ruled out PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders associated with Streptococcal infections), a condition that sometimes causes this behavior. The Gardasil vaccine was ruled out because many of the girls did not receive the vaccine. 

In addition, to help assist the district with assessing all aspects of this situation, we hired our own independent environmental expert to conduct a review of the findings and offer alternative approaches if needed. This was done not because we questioned the state medical professionals or federal agencies, but to help reassure the community. There are also some individuals who are attempting to connect the 1970 Lehigh Valley Railroad train derailment that spilled Trichloroethene (TCE) to the school.  In fact, the TCE plume has been shown as moving in the opposite direction of the school, some three miles away.     

The individual who came onto school property this past Saturday did not identify himself, did not show his credentials, and did not contact us ahead of time to offer assistance or coordinate with our efforts. Nor did this individual demonstrate that the testing approach was in accordance with scientific methods. It was clearly staged as a publicity stunt with members of local and national media invited to participate. We know this because the media arrived well in advance of this individual. In fact, one member of the media entered the school without permission and interrupted the preparations for an on-site program. Of course they were asked to leave. I am charged with keeping this entire school, staff, students and grounds safe. Not knowing this individual’s intention, I had no idea if he was there to get something or leave something. 

Our administration and staff are exceptional and have been diligently working under stressful situations to try to maintain a supportive educational environment. This has been extremely challenging given the irresponsible tactics and programming by the national media. Speculation and reporting of erroneous information by those who have none of the information that has been compiled over months of study by leading professionals is confusing our community. It is also heightening the level of anxiety of all our students and especially jeopardizing the recovery of those affected students, many who had recovered or been showing signs of improvement. These kids want to get better. As a community, we need to support each other and these students by ensuring our school environment is nurturing and safe. I want to thank the members of our local media who have been engaging in responsible reporting.

I know we all want what is best for the children. We are all frustrated, tired and saddened by this turn of events as it is affecting the entire community. I am confident we will work through it, but I do believe it will take some time. My role as Superintendent of this District is to ensure I am providing the best possible educational environment conducive to learning and allowing our children to excel to the best of their ability. I am not an environmental scientist or medical professional, and therefore, cannot always be the spokesperson for highly technical and medical explanations nor answer questions that require in-depth technical knowledge. Questions of this nature must be addressed to those professionals and answered by these professionals. I have been trying to increase the direct communication from these agencies as well as putting forth new information as it is received. I know it is frustrating not to have definitive answers or wait for test findings. I want to assure you that all technical professionals involved are doing everything they can to expedite the process and communicate any new information as it is received.

I know this has been an emotionally hard situation and we all hope for the speedy recovery of our students. Please know we welcome your questions and suggestions, and take all under consideration. We will continue to communicate with you as soon as we have new information to share. 

Kim M. Cox
Superintendent of Schools

February 1, 2012 - 11:25am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, Wiss Hotel.

The Village of Le Roy has acquired title to the former Wiss Hotel. The question now: What to do with it?

The village would like to find a buyer, according to Mayor George Brady, but with demolition costs reaching well into the six figures, the building probably needs to come down before any commercial developer will take a look at the parcel.

"The hotel is right at one of the major crossroads of the nation," Brady said. "Unfortunately, it was built before there were cars and it's filled with that miracle substance of the 1930s, asbestos."

The village will seek an emergency grant from the state or feds to help pay for the demolition, Brady said.

If a buyer comes along before then, the asking price is just a few hundred dollars for the county filing fee.

File photo

January 31, 2012 - 7:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy.

When we contacted the Environmental Projection Agency regarding the Lehigh Valley Train Derailment Site, the EPA issued the following statement:

The EPA is aware of the parents and community’s concerns and we are working closely with the school district and all of the involved state agencies to give them information related to the Lehigh Valley Derailment Superfund site about four miles from the school.

While EPA is gathering information about actions that took place at the Lehigh site before the site became a federal Superfund site, we do not believe pollution from either site has impacted the school. As we gather all of the facts, we will keep the community, our state partners and the school district up to date. In addition, there is another Superfund site about 10 miles east of the school that EPA also believes has no impact on the school.

Groundwater that is under the site of the Superfund cleanup is carefully monitored. It flows away from, rather than toward, the school.

It appears that the drums shown on various news stories are drums containing dirt and rock from when wells were dug to monitor groundwater at the site. Most of these drums have been tested and contain material that is not hazardous and we are gathering more information about the balance. As part of its ongoing cleanup, EPA is taking steps to get these drums removed from the site as soon as possible.

On Monday, at the site, I learned that the contractor cleaning up the site is Unicorn Management Consultants. The website lists a number of remediation projects managed by Unicorn, but not the Lehigh site. We contacted Unicorn to try and acquire similar information as published on the website for other projects and we were told all inquiries were being handled by the EPA and only the EPA.

The EPA's maintains a website for the Superfund project.

We sent a series of follow-up questions to the EPA and below is what an EPA spokesman returned.

First, I suggest you take a look at a fact sheet we updated just yesterday: http://www.epa.gov/Region2/superfund/npl/0203481c.pdf

Next, here's supplemental info:

Q: Drums (editor's note: part of the question was why are the barrels labeled "Hazardous Material" if they only contain dirt and rock that isn't hazardous.)

There are drums on the Lehigh Valley Derailment Superfund site. In terms of the drums, they contain dirt and rock from when wells were dug to monitor groundwater at the site both under NYS DEC's investigation and more recently under EPA's. As part of the ongoing cleanup, EPA is taking steps to get these drums sampled and removed from the site as soon as possible.

There is a contractor for the potentially responsible party. (PRP means the entity liable for paying for the cleanup of a Superfund Site.) A subcontractor is currently handling the drum consolidation and the transportation to a licensed facility under EPA oversight.

Q: Also, could you please explain how EPA continues to track the plume?

Quarterly monitoring is conducted of the network of groundwater monitoring wells. Soil sampling was conducted to delineate the extent of the contamination.

Q: Where is the groundwater plume headed?

Southeast.

Q: Also, could you please explain the process of how, and how often, the EPA tests the contaminated site?

The groundwater is monitored. Soil on-site was sampled to delineate the extent of the contamination. The remedial design estimates that 8,000 cubic yards of soil need to be addressed.

Q: Can you tell me how long those drums have been there -- and the date of the last time they were tested?

In terms of the drums, they contain dirt and rock from when wells were dug to monitor groundwater at the site both under NYS DEC's investigation and more recently under EPA's. As part of the ongoing cleanup, EPA is taking steps to get these drums sampled and removed from the site as soon as possible.

There are approximately 108 drums (from the 1990s, NYS DEC oversight) on the site that have the drill cuttings (rocks, soils) from these wells. There are approximately 142 drums (from 2010, EPA oversight) that have drill cuttings from these wells.

Superfund process:
http://www.epa.gov/superfund/cleanup/index.htm

While EPA is gathering information about actions that took place at the Lehigh site before the site became a federal Superfund site, we do not believe pollution from either site has impacted the school

We also contacted the NYS DEC, and received the following statement:

DEC has been monitoring the situation and staying in contact with NYSDOH and EPA. DEC plays a supporting role to these agencies as they have the primary jurisdiction. DOH is the agency that makes the determination if environmental testing is necessary and DEC would perform some of this testing. In addition, Lehigh Valley is an EPA Superfund site and DEC is in contact with EPA about the site.

I sent a series of follow up questions, and the spokeswoman said she referred the questions to the State Department of Health.

Neither the EPA nor the DEC have yet answered the question of when they were brought into the process by the school district.

A bit of history on the property: The property was acquired by the Buffalo and Geneva Railway Co. in 1890 and 1891 from John Maloney and Patrick Carney, which later merged with Lehigh Valley. Lehigh Valley went bankrupt in January 1970. The derailment was Dec. 6, 1970. Trustees assumed responsibility for the clean up. Trustees sold the property to the Northwoods Sportsman Club for $6,100 in 1979. The club acquired the rest of its property from a lady named Maloney in the 1950s (frankly, lost my note with the details).

January 31, 2012 - 6:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy.

Three rumors regarding the Le Roy High School property on South Street Road have persisted since news became public of a group of girls developing tic symptoms late last year.

We've attempted to research these rumors and here's what we've been able to find out so far.

Rumor: The school was built on a swamp. Apparently false. Aerial maps going back to 1938 show the area of the school is flat and dry. By 1967 it more clearly looks like farmland. Even the swamp currently to the west of the school building doesn't appear on the map. By 1974, there is some sign of a drainage ditch going into the area of the present swamp/drainage pond. The area immediately southwest of the track becomes progressively wooded over the decades. The 1995 NAPP Infrared Map shows the area of the school building looking like farmland, with not much of a marsh, if any, to the west, and the wooded area south of the track is heavily wooded. The 2002 map (top photo) shows the school under construction.

Rumor: TCE-laced fill dirt was used under the school or under athletic fields. Probably false. School construction does not require local permitting, so local planning agencies have no documentation on the construction of the school  We have a request in with the NYS Department of Education for any information the state's construction records might retain on this topic. However, again, the aerial views going back to 1938 show a flat area and no sign that the area was a swamp, so why would fill even be needed? Also, the train wreck site shows no signs of massive amounts of material being removed from that site.

Rumor: The school district turned down an offer of free property for a new school and purchased the current property from the brother of a school board member. Mostly true. Below is a list of each parcel that makes up the school property. Local attorney E. Robert Fussell confirmed that he offered property he owned from Woodward Drive, behind the houses on South Street, going south. Fussell thought the school should be built in the village and this property would be in walking distance of the elementary school and district building. The board instead decided to buy land to the south of its athletic fields on South Street Road. Some of the land was owned by Emily B. Pangrazio and Donald M. Pangrazio Jr. Ron Pangrazio was president of the school board at the time (we couldn't find current contact information for Pangrazio).

Parcel 31.-1-110: North end of the school property which contains athletic fields, including the school's track and football stadium. The district acquired the property Aug. 20, 1952 from Edward and Jessie Spry. According to GIS maps, the first signs of athletic use appears in 1963, when a track and field oval appears. The oval is not on the 1954 aerial map.

Parcel 31.-1-101: This parcel is off Summit Street and has been referred to "the town park." The parking area is where the media staged last Saturday morning. It's actually school district property.  The district acquired the 27.5-acre parcel Sept. 30, 1982, from Jessie Eckler (formerly Spry).

Parcel 31.-1-99.12: This is the parcel with a baseball diamond immediately west of the school building. It is six acres. The land was acquired for $35,000 from Irene Walters on Nov. 1, 2000.

Parcel 31.-1.136: The actual school building sits on this 23-acre parcel. It was acquired for $108,000 from the Pangrazio family on Oct. 20, 2000.

Parcel 31.-1-36: This parcel is nearly nine acres and contains a maintenance building, part of the school parking lot and a retention pond. It's north of the school. The property was obtained from the Hansen family for $120,000 on Oct. 26, 2000.

January 31, 2012 - 12:44pm
posted by Billie Owens in fire, Le Roy.

A possible chimney fire is reported at 87 Myrtle St. in the Village of Le Roy. A neighbor who called it in says there's a lot of smoke showing in the area. Le Roy Fire Department along with Bergen's are responding.

UPDATE 12:47 p.m.: The chief on scene calls for units to continue in. "It appears he did have a small fire going. He's got the bottom shut off now," says the chief, adding they will still need to take a look inside to determine the status.

UPDATE 12:52 p.m.: No signs of heat are found in the basement using a thermal-imaging camera. Ditto for the walls and floors of the residence. Now they will get on the roof and look into the chimney using the camera to check for heat.

UPDATE 1:10 p.m.: A firefighter reports there is no heat to the touch on the outside of the chimney up to the roofline. There is light smoke still coming from the chimney.

UPDATE 1:15 p.m.: A code enforcement officer is called to the scene.

UPDATE 1:24 p.m.: "Fire is out. Units are picking up and they'll be going shortly."

January 30, 2012 - 9:17pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in photos, Le Roy, Gulf Road.

This afternoon, I took a drive down Gulf Road in Le Roy. As usual, the old quarry visible from the road was interesting to see.

I also stopped by the entrance to the Lehigh Valley Railway derailment site. When I arrived, an employee of the company hired by the EPA to manage the site was standing roadside chatting with a reporter from New York City and an independent researcher. The employee couldn't talk, but gave me a phone number of somebody who might talk. Hopefully, in a day or two -- depending who calls me back and when -- I'll have a follow up on the situation at the site.

There is a new sign on the entrance gate at the site. It was posted today. The new sign says, "No Trespassing." (photo below)

January 30, 2012 - 9:00pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy.

The following statement was shared with The Batavian by the office of Rep. Kathy Hochul. Hochul issued the statement initially in response to a request for a statement from CNN.

The last several months have been challenging for the community of Le Roy. While we are all are anxious for answers, it’s important that we allow medical and environmental experts to collect the facts and accurately identify the source of this unusual and unfortunate situation.

Our top priority must be to protect the health and safety of the community of Le Roy and to this end, my office has been in contact with various federal agencies, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency.

As a Representative of this community, I’m committed to ensuring that the residents of Le Roy have access to the resources needed to fully understand this situation.

January 30, 2012 - 7:16pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy.

Press release:

Kim Cox, the superintendent of the Le Roy Central School District, is referring media inquiries on medical and environmental questions to the experts from the New York State Department of Health, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Environmental Protection Agency. They are best equipped to answer your technical questions, as they have ours. 

As has been communicated, the District has been working closely for months with numerous medical professionals, the State Department of Health, the State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Environmental Protection Agency. All of these agencies and dozens of professionals from these agencies have assured the District that the school is safe.

There is no evidence of an environmental situation or infectious cause. In addition, to help assist the District with assessing all aspects of this situation, it hired its own independent environmental expert to conduct a review of the findings and offer alternative approaches, if needed. This was done not because the District questioned the state medical professionals or federal agencies, but to help reassure the community.

There are also some who are attempting to marry the 1970 derailment to the school when in fact the plume has been shown as moving in the opposite direction some three miles away.   

The Le Roy community should take assurance that the Department of Health concluded extensive reviews of both the epidemiology and the clinical evaluations and found no evidence of environmental or infection as the cause of the students’ illness. An environmental exposure would affect many people.

The treating physicians ruled out PANDAS. The school was tested for Volatile Organic Compounds (including TCE) by an independent firm. The school is served by a public water system. The Gardasil vaccine was ruled out because many of the girls did not receive the vaccine. The Department of Environmental Conservation reaffirmed the evaluation that there is no evidence of environmental factors.

The District will certainly welcome input from outside experts if they choose to offer it in a professional and constructive manner. It will rely on its own expert as well as counsel from the Department of Health, DEC and EPA as to whether any further testing is deemed appropriate.  However, in the event that it is recommended, it will be done with a specific plan based upon all available information and accepted scientific protocols.

The District wants to be clear that it has confidence with respect to the conclusions of the Department of Health based upon its comprehensive review of this situation as well as the assessment of the physicians at the DENT Neurologic Institute. 

The Le Roy Central School District and the Le Roy community want what is best for the children in the schools. Unfortunately, the endless speculation without factual basis is creating an extreme level of anxiety and concern. Students are unable to focus on learning. The constant attention has had a negative impact on the recovery of some of the students who are directly affected, many who were improving and whose symptoms have now become exacerbated.

The District knows this has been an emotionally hard situation on the community and everyone hopes for the speedy recovery of its students.

January 30, 2012 - 1:52pm
posted by Billie Owens in Announcements, Le Roy, Holy Family School.

Press release:

Holy Family School in LeRoy is busy this week with activities held in conjunction with Catholic Schools Week. Check out the launch of our new and more informative website, www.hfsleroy.org, Monday, Jan. 30 (where current and prospective families can now also enroll their children online).

HFS wants the community to know we are not only open — we are thriving! The school ranked highest in the area for Catholic grade schools by Business First and many former students have gone on to great academic, athletic, and professional success.

Many prospective families are not aware of how many surrounding areas our students come
from (Brockport, Pavilion, Batavia, Caledonia, York, Byron-Bergen and Warsaw, in addition to Le Roy), and that our tuition package is the most affordable in our area.

Families are always welcome to schedule a personal tour or shadow day by calling 768-7390.

An Open House and Registration Night is scheduled from 7 to 8 p.m. this Thursday, Feb. 2.

Current families as well as prospective families are encouraged to attend this event. There will be a brief presentation made by Principal Kevin Robertson, followed by tours of the two buildings on campus, meet-and-greets with teachers, and an informal opportunity to learn more from current parents about student activities, parent activities, tuition, transportation and financial aid.

January 30, 2012 - 10:38am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, Le Roy.

Robert J. Eppolito, 29, of 61 Church St., Apt. #2, Le Roy, admitted in Genesee County Court today that he punched and kicked another person during a confrontation in Le Roy last September.

By pleading guilty to assault in the second degree, Eppolito faces a possible prison term of up to five years, with time being served concurrently on his sentence from a guilty plea for violation of probation.

As a second felony offender, Eppolito will serve at least three years in prison.

Sentencing was set for 9 a.m., April 23.

Eppolito admitted in court that he kicked the victim and broke the victim's nose and bruised his left eye.

While awaiting sentencing, Eppolito will be released under supervision of the probation department.

January 28, 2012 - 11:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy.

At 2:35 p.m., Bill Albert, representing the Le Roy Central School District, issued the following press release. It came more than two hours after a sometimes confrontational impromptu press conference with national and regional media (and one local news reporter), Albert and Superintendent Kim Cox (both pictured above).

This morning, without any prior notice to the District, camera crews from a number of media sources, including both national and local outlets, entered District property for the purpose of filming an unidentified individual taking soil samples.

It is appalling that whatever group or entity employing this individual, as well as the media outlets participating in this effort, chose to conduct themselves in this way -- which can only be characterized as grandstanding. Not only was this criminal activity which forced the District to call in local law enforcement to maintain the security of its property, it disrupted the District’s preparations for a weekend music event involving students from over twenty-two schools as well as other student activities.  No legitimate organization would function in this manner.

As previously indicated, the District is working in conjunction with local and state agencies relative to this matter. Based upon the results from testing already conducted at the District as well as review of other information from multiple sources, environmental factors have not been identified as a cause of the symptoms that have manifested in some students. Testing conducted with rogue samples is of no scientific value, as it is not conducted in accordance with scientific methodologies and safety protocols utilized by reputable environmental experts in all testing situations. In fact, such actions could hamper the coordinated effort already underway by the District in conjunction with environmental, health, and safety experts to address this matter. The District will continue to provide information with respect to these efforts as it becomes available. 

Local law enforcement will continue to monitor the security of the District’s property. 

Here's the background:

I arrived at district propety at 11:15 a.m. At the time, there were not even a dozen cars in the parking lot of the school. There were no students to be seen.

I could see a group of people, and recognize a boom mic, clear across the athletic fields, so I drove around to that side, which is a public park. Several members of national and regional media were at the location. 

The media and members of the Erin Brockovich team left the location and drove to a location on Route 5. Bob Bowcock wanted to gather well water samples from that location. When he was finished there, he wanted to drive back to the school because he was told an attorney would be there to let him know whether he could have access to the school grounds.

Shortly after the caravan arrived at the park, Albert and Cox arrived.

While the questioning was at times pointed and aggressive, it wasn't unprofessional.

Bowcock was told by Albert that he could walk the grounds, just like any other citizen in Le Roy, but could not take soil samples, and the media would not be allowed on the grounds. Albert said that while members of the media were citizens, they could not go on the property while acting in capacity as media, even though numerous Supreme Court cases have not drawn a distinction between a "person" and a "corporate entity" (most recently Citizens United) for the purpose of First Amendment rights.

School property is public property and public access cannot be denied so long as it does not disrupt the educational purpose of the campus.

The media was on site during non-school hours and there was no evidence of educational activity. To label the media presence as "criminal activity" is beyond ludicrous.

One additional note: The additional law enforcement was two overtime patrols from the Genesee County Sheriff's Office. The school district paid for the extra enforcement. The patrols will be in the area throughout Sunday.

January 28, 2012 - 11:16pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy.

An environmental specialist from Los Angeles in Le Roy on Saturday scoffed at studies used by the Le Roy Central School District to say there was no environmental cause for a tic outbreak among a group of students at the high school.

“In my opinion, that (the reports released by the district) wasn’t even close to science," said Robert W. Bowcock (top photo), an environmental investigator with Integrated Resource Management, based in Claremont, Calif.

Bowcock said he was in Le Roy at the request of Erin Brockovich, a famed environmental crusader, but "working for free" to try and help uncover the cause of the tic disorder.

As many as 15 students of the school reportedly suffer from tics and verbal outbursts similar to Tourette Syndrome.

At a Jan. 11 community meeting, district officials and the NYS Department of Health released reports on environmental studies conducted at the school by BOCES.

"Nobody has received any information that can be checked or tested," Bowcock said. "We’re not out here to invalidate anybody’s work or validate anybody’s work. We just want to see all of the information so we can help gain further knowledge."

The Brockovich team attempted to walk onto school district property around 11 a.m., Saturday, and were stopped by local law enforcement. They were told they didn't have the proper permits to gather soil samples on the property.

At around noon, William Albert, a public information specialist with the law firm Harris Beach, along with Kim Cox, superintendent of the school district, appeared at the public park adjacent school property to issue a statement (click here to read the statement delivered to media representatives at the site).

Albert initially said neither he nor Cox would answer questions, but wound up in a debate/discussion with media representatives about access to school grounds.

At the impromptu press conference, Cox characterized the Brockovich team's actions as unprofessional and Albert would later issue a press release labeling the media presence as unprofessional and "criminal."

"We’ve been working very closely with professionals across the state and across the country trying to keep the community as involved and up to date as possible," Cox said. "We’re disappointed about how this has unraveled today. We would have expected to be contacted ahead of time. The district was taken by surprise by this. There was no pre-arrangement. We would have expected that this would have taken place in a professional way."

Cox said if Bowcock and his team were allowed on school property to gather samples, the research would have lacked validity because they would have been gathered in an unprofessional manner.

"I've never been kept out of a public place in my history of environmental investigation," Bowcock said. "Usually, we’re welcome because entities want us to rule them in or rule them out, or give them information to help them deal with the problem."

Brockovich's team and the media were being kept off the property, Cox said, because it was a disruption to education of students.

At the time, there were fewer than a dozen cars in the school's parking lot and no students in sight.

"We would have welcomed the help if they had gone through the appropriate channels and contacted us instead of just showing up on a Saturday morning with camera crews," Cox said. "It's a bit of a grandstand. We would be happy to talk with those folks and coordinate it through the appropriate channels.

"Why would you show up on a Saturday morning with a camera crew without a conversation with the superintendent of the district if you were truly interested in helping us? This doesn’t feel like support."

When a parent pointed out that community residents walk on school grounds all the time, particularly using the track for exercise, Albert clarified that any citizen could walk on the grounds, but Bowcock could not take samples and the media could not tag along.

After walking the grounds, Bowcock said he did gain valuable information from the walk.

"I noticed things like, the public roadway drains onto the school property, or through school property," Bowcock said. "What that means to me is that the school property is not wholly intact. It is subject to intrusion from outside sources of water and perhaps outside sources of contamination that could come in onto the property, cause an event and evacuate from the property. Did that happen? I don’t know."

Bowcock said his goal for his Saturday visit to Le Roy was to gather water and soil samples and analyze them for any contaminants. He said there might be a 100 chemicals that could cause problems for students, but of most interest was trichloroethene (TCE).

A 1970 train derailment in Le Roy dumped approximately one ton of cyanide crystals and around 30,000 gallons of Trichloroethene (TCE) onto the ground, polluting soil and groundwater.

Bowcock said the TCE plume in Le Roy is the largest in the United States.

The EPA has considered the plume's movement to be mostly eastward, but Bowcock said a number of factors -- such as capping of wells, storm patterns and new wells opening to the east -- could influence the direction of the plume.

"All those different things could have caused a release of the TCE into the surface environment from the subsurface environment for a period of time and then it could have ceased," Bowcock said. "You just won’t know until you get out here to investigate."

He was careful to point out that he has no evidence to suggest any such change has actually taken place.

TCE is typically a carcinogen (it can cause cancer), but Bowcock said that depending on the amount of exposure, can cause neurological disorders.

Bowcock and his team spent the day traveling to various locations in the town and village, examining the topography and environment as well as gathering soil and water samples.

There were dozens and dozens of places in Le Roy that residents suggested through emails to Brockovich that Bowcock check, he said.

One of the key sites was the location of the 1970 train wreck (bottom six photos).

It's still a Superfund clean-up site, and Bowcock said he was shocked by the condition of the site (located on Gulf Road on the east side of the Town of Le Roy).

The site contains breached and leaking barrels of contaminated water and soil and "the berm and liner is pretty much gone."

"Unfortunately, and I’ll say it like it is, we found a remediation site that has housekeeping issues," Bowcock said. "It is pretty much a mess."

The real threat, Bowcock said, is to anybody with well water. The village residents and its businesses on municipal water have nothing to worry about.

It's slim odds, Bowcock indicted, that TCE is the cause of the tic symptoms in the girls, but local residents, he said, need to be aware that the government hasn't adequately addressed the 1970 spill.

"The good outcome from that is that the people of Le Roy realize that they have the largest TCE plume in the eastern United States under their community and the government has given them lip service for 40 years telling them 'we’ve cleaned it, we’ve cleaned it up,' " Bowcock said. "Frankly, I’m here to tell you, they haven’t done a darn thing."

Bowcock said the only thing that has really been removed was the railroad tracks -- which are worth money -- but the old bedding and ties are still on the site.  Near the entrance of the site are two piles of bedding stones. One is covered by a heavy plastic tarp, as if it might be contaminated, and the other -- complete with exposed railroad ties -- is uncovered.

In every discussion with media, Bowcock was careful to say there is no apparent environmental cause of the tics and that further testing needs to be done.

He said he and the team -- along with possibly Brockovich and "Dr. Drew" (Dr. David Drew Pinsky) -- in three or four weeks hope to do more specific and detailed testing of soil and water in the community and at the school.

"The one common factor for the students affected is the school," Bowcock said.

Bowcock said parents wouldn't even have asked the Brockovich team to come to Le Roy if government officials had been more forthcoming and transparent at a Jan. 11 community meeting about the tic outbreak.

"Since the fall they’ve been asking for answers and I think they anticipated they would receive something of substance (at the meeting)," Bowcock said. "They would have heard, 'This is what we’ve done. This is how we’ve tackled the problem.' I think they felt like they were paid lip service. It was like, we did some testing and here’s some air samples. They weren’t even scientists (the parents) and they could recognize the deficiencies of the reports."

FOOTNOTE: An interesting aside to the "Brockovich is coming to Genesee County" angle, some prankster called the the legendary Red Osier Restaurant in Stafford to convince staff she was heading there for dinner. At about 9:45 p.m., Friday, a person called Red Osier and identified himself as a member of Brockovich's security team. He said Brockovich would be arriving in five minutes. He said Brockovich required a private dining area and a Stoli martini. Staff had no reason to doubt the authenticity of the call, according to co-owner Michael Moore, so one of the empty dining rooms was prepared and the fire in the fireplace was lit. The chef stayed on duty, ready to prepare a meal for Brockovich. After nearly an hour of waiting, Moore sent the staff home. Bowcock confirmed Brockovich wasn't even in town and said she would never make such demands.

January 28, 2012 - 6:04pm
posted by Billie Owens in Basom, byron, Le Roy, Stafford, Milestones, bergen.

Roberts Wesleyan College is pleased to announce the following students were named to the Deans' List for their outstanding academic performance for the Fall 2011 semester:

  • Kimberly Mills, of Basom, received Highest Honors

 

  • Andrea Zinke, of Stafford, received Highest Honors

 

  • Jewelyn Fregoe, of Bergen, received Highest Honors

 

  • Alannah Heale, of Bergen, received Highest Honors

 

  • Bethany Salvia, of Bergen, received Highest Honors

 

  • Michelle Salvia, of Bergen, received Highest Honors

 

  • Katherine Schrenker, of Bergen, received Highest Honors

 

  • Tyler Sass, of Byron, received Highest Honors

 

  • Katherine Rudman, of Le Roy, received Highest Honor
     
  • Danielle Watkins, of Bergen, received Honors

Honors requires a grade-point average ranging from 3.5 to 3.69; and Highest Honors requires a grade-point average ranging from 3.9 to 4.0

Roberts Wesleyan College has had a tradition of excellence since 1866. It is a leader among liberal arts colleges with a Christian worldview and offers more than 57 undergraduate programs, as well as graduate programs in education, school psychology, school counseling, health administration, nursing education, nursing leadership and administration, strategic marketing, social work and strategic leadership.

Roberts Wesleyan also offers innovative undergraduate degree-completion programs for working adults in health administration, nursing, organizational management, and teacher education. For more information, visit www.roberts.edu.

January 28, 2012 - 5:52pm
posted by Billie Owens in Le Roy, Milestones.

Kari Powers, of Le Roy, graduated from The University of Toledo with a Master of Education degree in Special Education.

Powers was among more than 1,000 graduates who received their degrees at the University's Fall 2011 commencement ceremonies.

The University of Toledo, established in 1872, is a diverse, student-centered public metropolitan research university. It is home to more than 23,000 students across 14 colleges and three primary campuses. UT offers more than 230 undergraduate, graduate and professional programs and is the center of 15 Division 1-A Rocket athletic teams. For more information visit www.utoledo.edu.

January 27, 2012 - 4:12pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy.

The search for a cause of a tic disorder in more than a dozen teenagers in Le Roy is moving toward a look at environmental causes.

The Democrat & Chronicle was the first to report that Erin Brockovich, Lois Gibbs and the Sierra Club are joining the investigation into what may have caused the tics, apprently not accepting the diagnosis of Dr. Laszlo Mechtler and others that the problem is "conversion disorder."

While other theories -- such as problems with vaccines -- have not been ruled out among those searching for other answers, the new environmental focus is getting a lot of play in the national media. Brockovich's interest has particularly drawn coverage.

On the vaccine front, Marcella Piper-Terry, contacted The Batavian today to offer her help.  Her site talks about "vaccine injury," and not just from the HPV vaccines.

We wanted to drill down a little more on the HPV vaccine issue and PANDAS, which is a strep-related neuropsychiatric disorder, so we called the NYS Department of Health and requested an interview with Dr. Gregory Young.

Jeffrey Hammonds, spokesman for the department, returned the call. 

He said HPV vaccines were ruled out because a majority of the original 12 girls have not been vaccinated.

He said he would get back to us on the details of why PANDAS was ruled out.

As for Brockovich, there are rumors that she will be in Le Roy either Saturday or Sunday.

The Southern California resident first gained fame as a paralegal (for the Westlake Village law firm of Masry & Vititoe) who helped initiate a lawsuit against Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (She lives in Agoura Hills, a tony community just over the Ventura County line in Northwest Los Angeles County. Ronald Reagan once owned a ranch there.)

The success of the suit, which resulted in the largest toxic tort injury settlement in U.S. history, eventually led to a popular movie titled "Erin Brockovich" with Julie Roberts in the lead role. (Roberts won an Oscar for Best Actress and the film, released in 2000, was also nominated for Best Picture and Best Director.)

In some circles, Brockovich is a bit controversial. Journalist Michael Fumento has been especially critical of Brockovich since 2000.

In 2003, Time Magazine published Erin Brockovich's Junk Science:

The suit, on behalf of Hinkley, California residents, focused on an ionized form of chromium called chromium-6, a rust inhibitor that was carelessly dumped by the giant utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, and seeped into the groundwater used by the town's residents. In bringing suit against PG&E, Brockovich's law firm charged that chromium-6, in addition to causing cancer, was responsible for disorders ranging from rashes and nosebleeds to lupus, miscarriage and Crohn's Disease in 600 of Hinkley's residents. The case eventually went to arbitration, and a panel of judges awarded residents a settlement of $333 million dollars, 40 percent of which went to the lawyers. For her efforts Brockovich received a two million dollar bonus.

And what are the facts? There is no doubt that PG&E irresponsibly dumped chromium-6, and that the substance is a carcinogen. When inhaled regularly over long periods of time, it can cause cancer of the lung and the septum. But current studies show that, ingested in the trace amount found in Hinkley's water, or in food, it's harmless. According to a 1998 Environmental Protection Agency report on chromium-6, "No data were located in the available literature that suggested that it is carcinogenic by the oral route of exposure."

According to the D&C, the environmental investigators -- including Gibbs of Love Canal fame -- and the Sierra Club will be looking at gas wells and alleged toxic dumping at the Le Roy school site.

Five natural gas wells owned by the LeRoy school district ring the junior/senior high school building, which opened in 2003. The wells have undergone the controversial procedure known as hydraulic fracturing, state environmental officials said. About 25 Western New York school districts own gas wells, though none have more active wells than Le Roy.

"We believe that it would be premature to draw any correlation between these tragic and unexplained illnesses and the gas wells on the school's playing fields," said Roger Downs of the Sierra Club's Atlantic Chapter. "But we have seen no evidence that these wells were adequately considered by the Department of Health as potential contributing factors to the illnesses in the initial investigation."

...

Rumors persist that the school or ground sit atop rock and soil trucked in from a part of Le Roy still suffering the after-effects of a huge spill of the toxic solvent trichloroethylene in a 1970 train derailment.

January 26, 2012 - 6:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy.

Two pharmaceutical companies that make HPV vaccine have hired Dr. Laszlo Mechtler in the past as a speaker, paying him more than $150,000 in fees in 2009 through 2011, according to a ProPublica database.

Mechtler is the neurologist who reportedly diagnosed 11 teenage girls in Le Roy who have been displaying tics and verbal outbursts with "conversion disorder."

State public health officials relied, at least in part, on Mechtler's diagnosis to rule out vaccines for the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus as a cause.

The HPV vaccines are known as Gardasil and Cervarix, manufactured by Merck & Co. and GlaxoSmithKline.

While tics and verbal outbursts are not listed on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website as a possible side effect of either drug, the drugs have been known to cause serious health issues. According to WebMD, the vaccines have been tied to rare cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, neurological disoder that causes weakness.

Several observers of the Le Roy situation have suggested HPV vaccine as a possible cause, but at a public meeting in Le Roy Jan. 11, Dr. Gregory Young said HPV had been ruled out as a cause.

In a search of Google for "tics gardasil cervarix," pretty much all the results tie the outbreak in Le Roy to the drugs, but actual evidence of the drugs being tied to such an outcome is hard to find.

Mechtler was later interviewed by NBC and identified himself as the doctor who examined 11 of the girls and diagnosed them with conversion disorder, even going so far in another interview to blame 9/11 terror alerts for causing stress in the girls.

According to Propublica -- a nonprofit investigative journalism organization -- Mechtler received the following payments from Glaxo and Merck:

  • $62,400 in speaking fees in 2009 from Merck
  • $75,200 in speaking fees in 2010 from Glaxo
  • $19,819 for research from Glaxo in 2010
  • Another $10,000 from Glaxo in 2011

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