River Valley Schools, Marion
July 27, 2009: Pollution is a crime that alters lives

Kent Krumunaker
Roxanne and Kent Krumanaker and Barry and Melanie Serpa of Marion, were active members of Concerned River Valley Families, a group of several dozen families who doggedly battled with state and federal officials to get River Valley High School moved.

CLYDE -- "Pollution is nothing other than a lack of accountability, a sign that someone has wronged someone else. It alters our climate. Our landscape. Our food. Our water. It can bring death. Alexa Brown is one of about 20 children in the Clyde area who have been diagnosed with cancer since 2001, a figure that authorities have concluded is no statistical fluke. There's an environmental trigger. Somebody, somewhere messed up. Now, kids are dying. Officials theorize it was a short-term problem because a 2005-2006 spike in new cancer cases hasn't been duplicated. So what? Somebody needs to be held accountable. What's happened in Clyde is an environmental crime, but it's a crime nonetheless," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

Sep 26, 2008: Deemed safe for soldiers
Land near toxic River Valley campus cleaned up enough for Army trainingmap

MARION -- "Students will never return to the toxic River Valley Schools campus, but the U.S. Army Reserve says a nearby forest and scrubland are safe for soldier training. The campus and training site are on land that was once part of a sprawling World War II-era Army depot and munitions factory that contaminated the area with toxic levels of lead, arsenic and chemicals suspected of causing cancer. Then the U.S. Army Environmental Command removed more than 11,000 tons of contaminated soil from the 130-acre training site," Spencer Hunt, Columbus Dispatch.

Dec 28, 2004:  Corps starts campus cleanup
Soil removal brings Valley investigation closer to closure

Don Millard, community co-chairman for the Restoration Advisory Board.
MARION -- "Seven years after starting an environmental investigation of the former River Valley High School/Middle School campus, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its contractor are ready to begin cleaning up the controversial site. Investigators for the Ohio Department of Health and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency began looking into concerns about the former school site in 1997 after a school nurse compiled a list showing 15 cancer cases among River Valley graduates. [Don] Millard said while he is happy the cleanup is due to be completed early in 2005 he wishes questions that were raised about chemicals found in the site and any possible links to cancer cases found in former River Valley students would have been answered, " John Jarvis, Marion Star.
Oct 16, 2001:   Work begins on new River Valley schools

MARION -- "Tons of brick, mortar and steel will begin rising on a former tract of farmland on Rt. 95 -- about a mile east of Rt. 98 -- as the one-story, 65,000-square-foot middle school takes shape. Construction of the adjacent two-story, 121,000-square-foot high school will begin early next year. Work on the elementary schools is slated to start after that," Tom Sheehan, Columbus Dispatch.
Aug 28, 2001:  Marion leukemia inquiry may affect EPA job hearing

COLUMBUS -- "[U.S. Senator George] Voinovich now claims he did not recommend [Donald Schregardus] for the federal job. Mr. Voinovich, who is on the committee that first heard the nomination, said he recommended Mr. Schregardus to be the EPA’s regional administrator for the Midwest. That job is based in Chicago, not Washington," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
Aug 27, 2001:   Nominee for EPA post faces heat over Ohio cancer-cluster probe

WASHINGTON, DC -- "The Bush Administration's nominee to be the nation's top enforcer of environmental laws, already under fire from Senate Democrats for his broad record in Ohio, is receiving new scrutiny over assertions that he tampered with a politically sensitive investigation into a mysterious cluster of cancer cases. The nominee, Donald Schregardus, was formerly head of Ohio's Environmental Protection Agency. In October, a U.S. Labor Department administrative law judge, Thomas F. Phalen Jr., concluded that Mr. Schregardus pushed investigators pursuing the cause of the cancer cases to "find no evidence linking the sites to leukemia." When one investigator called for more-thorough testing, the decision says, Mr. Schregardus removed him from the job, using a "contrived" disciplinary charge," John J. Fialka, Wall Street Journal.
Attention Gov. Taft: Does the following story give you any ideas about the contaminated River Valley High School in Marion?

Aug 18, 2001:  Mold closes 2 schools in London
Cleanup crews likely won't be done before classes start

LONDON, OH -- "Mold has shut down two London schools, forcing administrators to scramble to find classroom space for more than 700 students. London Middle School students will likely attend classes in a former warehouse, and Deercreek Elementary School students will begin their year at a nearby church. Not even teachers are allowed to enter the middle school as hazardous-materials crews clear the building of potentially dangerous mold caused by recent flooding and hot weather, said Superintendent Thomas P. Coyne. Although damage was not as bad at the elementary school, classes will be moved. Classes at both schools were supposed to begin Aug. 28," Holly Zachariah, Columbus Dispatch.
Aug 16, 2001:  EPA considers plan to remove toxins from river

MARION -- "Two years after federal officials dug up tons of toxic creosote from an abandoned wood-treatment plant near a Marion neighborhood, they're back trying to clean up what's left of the oily mess. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also is considering a $10 million plan to dredge creosote from the Little Scioto River, a source of drinking water for Marion and a tributary of the Scioto River, a source of drinking water for Columbus . . .Contractors hired by the EPA removed more than 3,500 tons of contaminated soil from the site two years ago and shipped it to a hazardous-waste landfill in Michigan. Tests later detected more contamination than previously thought," Michael Hawthorne, Columbus Dispatch.
Aug 11, 2001:   A Town Divided
How a cancer threat is tearing a community apart

MARION -- This article, which appears in the August issue of Family Circle, survived an effort by Gov. Bob Taft to suppress it. When writer Hal Karp was working on it, Taft's then-press secretary Scott Milburn repeatedly called Family Circle executives, including the editor-in-chief, demanding that it be dropped. According to Karp, Milburn told Family Circle there would be a price to pay if they printed it. Karp revealed the attempted intimidation last Monday on The Bob Connors Show, 610 WTVN-AM, Columbus. Later, he elaborated on the incident to Ohio Citizen Action. It is not known what price Taft's office was contemplating requiring Family Circle magazine to pay.
Jul 28, 2001:  Contamination still a mystery in Marion

WASHINGTON, DC -- "The Ohio Department of Health is still unsure what is contaminating the grounds near the River Valley junior high and high school," Maureen Kocot, WBNS Columbus.

MARION -- "River Valley cancer tie inconclusive, study says; Research to assess link between contamination, leukemia discontinued," Associated Press.

Jul 27, 2001:  State study can't link leukemia to chemicals at River Valley schools

MARION -- "State health officials said last night that they could not determine whether toxic contamination at River Valley schools contributed to a high rate of leukemia among graduates," Tom Sheehan, Columbus Dispatch.

MARION -- "Study shows high number of leukemia in county," Marion Online.
Jul 26, 2001:  Ohio Department of Health releases Marion County leukemia case review study

COLUMBUS -- "Based on the findings of this case review, continued study of leukemia among Marion County residents and [River Valley High School] graduates is unlikely to identify additional factors that will explain the leukemia in these populations," release, Ohio Department of Health.
Full text of report (pdf).

Jul 25, 2001:   Army to work with group looking into Marion contamination

MARION -- "'The whole thing just keeps smelling more and more of somebody having information they don't want us to find,' said Don Millard, co-chairman of the Restoration Advisory Board. 'As the investigation progresses without our input ... it's time to force the Army Reserve into joining our RAB or thumbing their nose at us.' Yesterday, the Army said it will join the board,'" Tom Sheehan, Columbus Dispatch.

Jul 24, 2001:  River Valley investigation featured in popular magazine

NEW YORK -- "The ongoing investigation into contamination at the River Valley High School/ Middle School campus is being featured in the August issue of Family Circle magazine. The 6-page special report entitled, 'A Town Divided: How a Cancer Threat Is Tearing a Community Apart' outlines the investigation, including how it began and the testing that has been done. The article also features statements from a variety of local sources, including River Valley graduates, family members, investigators, school board members, and parents of students currently attending the schools. The August issue of Family Circle is currently available at local news stands," Marion Online.
Jul 23, 2001:  Marion citizens to petition Army

MARION -- "[Don Millard, a member of the Marion Restoration Advisory Board and parent of a former student] said he wants the Army Reserves involved because residents are curious about developments in a parallel investigation at the adjacent reserve training site, where contamination has been found in the past. Discarded barrels believed to be holding some chemical waste were removed from the site in early 1999. The Army suspended training there because of environmental concerns," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

Jun 23, 2001 COLUMBUS -- "River Valley kids should be moved," guest editorial, Simona Vaclavikova, Columbus Dispatch. "Many Ohio school systems, including River Valley, already use modular classrooms to solve space problems. Modular units fit the classroom standards of the Ohio Department of Education and have been approved for school use. Eight hundred River Valley Middle and High school students can be housed economically and flexibly in 14 units. It takes only two to three months to assemble and deliver these units to a site. In an emergency, this can be done in three to four weeks. ... The cost for this solution is about $1 million, less than 3 percent of the money already committed to permanent relocation."
Jun 20, 2001 MARION -- "Group Seeks Public Opinion on Delayed Leukemia Study," Marion On-Line. "The study has come about in connection with the on-going investigation at the River Valley campus. Some believe that the environmental contamination is not limited to the campus area, but extends into the Marion community."
Jun 15, 2001 MARION -- "Leukemia study in Marion taking too long, some say; Health officials say state is just being thorough," Tom Sheehan, Columbus Dispatch. "In his letter to epidemiologist Robert Indian, who is leading the leukemia study, [Pennsylvania toxicologist Bruce] Molholt accused the agency of dragging its feet in finishing the four-year review. 'I believe it to be unconscionable to deprive the public of these valuable data regarding potential past and future risks,' he wrote. The mother of a River Valley graduate who developed leukemia also sent a letter to the Health Department, criticizing how long it has taken to complete the report. On June 3, Roxanne Krumanaker wrote: 'The leukemia case review was put into action to determine if there was any kind of connection between the Marion leukemia cases and the River Valley leukemia cases. . . . This extreme delay is totally unacceptable.'"
May 18, 2001 MARION -- "A solution for River Valley Schools we can all live with," (Simona Vaclavikova, Marion On Line).
May 17, 2001 MARION -- "A solution for River Valley Schools we can all live with," column, Simona Vaclavikova, Ohio Citizen Action. "The following column was originally scheduled to run in the Marion Star. The newspaper then refused to publish the piece, saying it was 'too confusing for the community.' What do you think?"
Apr 14, 2001 MARION -- "Activists, Marion resolve lawsuit; Canvassers argued curfew was arbitrary," (James Drew, Toledo Blade). "The lawsuit, filed Feb. 5 in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, said in early 1999, Marion city hall began to enforce a 7 p.m. curfew as controversy grew over the River Valley middle and high schools. The schools were built in 1962 on 78 acres where the military used to burn or bury tons of highly toxic chemicals. ... The suit said Citizen Action canvassed in Marion for several years before 1999 until 9 p.m. and without charge. Attorneys cited several federal court decisions declaring that curfews are unconstitutional if they halt canvassing for political or civic purposes by 9 p.m."

MARION -- "Marion changes canvassing restrictions," (Holly Zachariah, Columbus Dispatch).
Apr 13, 2001 COLUMBUS -- "Marion lawsuit settled," (press release, Ohio Citizen Action). "'We are looking forward to talking directly with the residents of Marion about the problems at the River Valley Schools,' said Simona Vaclavikova, Ohio Citizen Action Columbus Area Director. 'Up until 1999, Ohio Citizen Action had successfully canvassed Marion for 20 years. We are eager to reconnect with our members there.'"
Mar 24, 2001 COLUMBUS -- "Data shows cancer rates up in Ohio," (Associated Press). "The data also shows statistics on a county-by-county-basis. In Marion County, for example, the rate of pancreatic cancer nearly doubled the state average of 8.1 cases per 100,000 residents."
Mar 23, 2001 MARION -- "[Ohio] EPA whistle-blower praised in Marion; Army representatives said they could not report yet what was found because results aren't complete," (Tom Sheehan, Columbus Dispatch). "Earlier in the meeting, the board was told that 51 areas were tested late last year on the 127-acre U.S. Army Reserve training site adjacent to the two schools and that the results are being evaluated. Several members of the board questioned why the process is taking so long, particularly in areas that already were identified as dump sites and that might have significant TCE, or chemical trichloroethylene contamination. 'What are you pulling out of these primary dump sites?' asked board co-chairman Don Millard. "
Mar 19, 2001 WASHINGTON, DC -- "Study Cites Illness in Alumni of Schools on Industrial Sites," (Jacques Steinberg, New York Times). "Tests have revealed elevated levels of benzo(a)pyrene, a carcinogen similar to the tar in cigarettes, and tricholorethylene, a widely used solvent that might be carcinogenic, in the soil around the school. But state health and environmental officials have said there is no way for students to ingest or inhale those chemicals, particularly with the ball fields closed as a precaution. 'Contaminated doesn't mean it's dangerous,' said Thomas G. Shade, the superintendent of the River Valley school district, who supports the school's continued operation. 'It just means it's contaminated.'"
Mar 15, 2001 OBERLIN -- "River Valley schools ought to be evacuated," (letter to the editor, Mark Minett, Columbus Dispatch). "I find it frightening that, in the meantime, the students at River Valley will continue to go to school on top of a military toxic-waste dump. The Ohio EPA has conducted a shoddy and lackluster investigation that borders on a cover-up. In light of the Jayko case, it is clear that any assurances the agency gives about the students' safety are not to be trusted."
Mar 9, 2001 COLUMBUS -- "Ohio AFL-CIO chief: School district should 'move the River Valley students immediately'," (letter, William Burga, Ohio AFL-CIO). "Our organization represents over 800,000 workers and families in the state of Ohio, including several thousand in Marion County. Additionally, I am the father of four River Valley High School graduates and stepfather of two others. ... Citizens have already voted for relocation, everyone knows of the contamination and they should not be at this facility waiting for a new school to be built." Shade reply, Mar 12.
Mar 5, 2001 COLUMBUS -- "State still fighting whistle-blower law," (Michael Hawthorne, Columbus Dispatch). "Mike Griffith, a member of a community advisory group that wants the children moved immediately, said the state should concentrate on its investigation instead of pursing more legal appeals. 'That concerns me greatly,' said Griffith, who took his son out of River Valley two years ago. 'If they just did their jobs and stopped worrying about their image, they might get to the bottom of what's going on out there.'"
Mar 3, 2001 TOLEDO -- "Who does Ohio EPA serve?" (editorial, Toledo Blade). "The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has a number of problems, not the least of which is that the agency sometimes seems more concerned with protecting polluters than the public. First, the EPA presented a face of bureaucratic malevolence at best in carrying out a 21/2-year disciplinary campaign against whistleblower Paul Jayko, an employee who had criticized the agency’s handling of reports of leukemia cases among former students of a school built on an old military waste dump near Marion. The agency was forced to reinstate Mr. Jayko and pay him and his lawyers $385,000. Taxpayers will foot the bill."
Feb 28, 2001 CLEVELAND -- "A tale of two cases; Both result in a little bit of justice," (David Morton, Cleveland Free Times). "Now that the Ohio EPA has been held accountable to Jayko, the question is, why did taxpayer money fund the defense of the agencyís defenseless behavior? And why do the people discovered to have undermined the River Valley investigation go unpunished? Perhaps Ohioís governor should hold the Ohio EPA accountable to the rest of us."
Feb 25, 2001 TOLEDO -- "A little mess in Marion," (editorial, Toledo Blade). "... officials in Marion should not be surprised to find themselves sued in a challenge that involves their 7 p.m. curfew and $7.50 registration fee for each canvasser Ohio Citizen Action sent to town to tell residents about residual pollution at the River Valley Schools complex. ... Marion officials have a few weeks in which to respond to the Citizen Action complaint, filed in federal court in Toledo. In that time its attorneys should come to terms with this citizens’ group without wasting taxpayer money on defending an indefensible policy. Choking off the voice of the messenger won’t make pollution go away."
Feb 24, 2001 COLUMBUS -- "EPA whistle-blower gets job back," (Jill Riepenhoff, Columbus Dispatch). "The agreement ends a three-year fight in which the EPA didn't win a single round. Messages were sent yesterday to all 1,300 EPA employees informing them that Jayko should not have been disciplined in 1998. The e-mails included a letter of apology from Jones to Jayko ... The agreement transfers supervision of the River Valley investigation to the EPA's Office of Federal Facilities Oversight and removes it from the authority of Jeff Steers, assistant chief of the Bowling Green office. Steers started the disciplinary proceedings against Jayko and has been involved closely with the River Valley investigation until now. Steers' membership on a community advisory board making decisions about the River Valley investigation now is in doubt."
COLUMBUS -- "Whistleblower reinstated," James Drew, Toledo Blade.
Feb 10, 2001 MARION -- "[Ohio] EPA appeals decision to reinstate worker," (Michael Hawthorne, Columbus Dispatch). "With no agreement in sight, the [Ohio] EPA decided to appeal the latest decision favoring Jayko to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. The state faced a Monday deadline to file an appeal or accept a ruling that ordered the [Ohio] EPA to publicly apologize to Jayko, return him to his Marion assignment, pay him $138,000 in lost pay and damages, and reimburse his legal fees."
Feb 8, 2001 MARION -- "Marion's canvassing law challenged," (Holly Zachariah, Columbus Dispatch). "Susan Gellman, a constitutional lawyer and a partner in the Columbus law firm of Wolman, Genshaft & Gellman, said curfews and other limitations hurt residents as well. 'There is an assumption by municipalities that no one wants to hear what these groups have to say,' said Gellman, who's defended First Amendment issues for her private practice and the American Civil Liberties Union. 'It's the First Amendment right of the people in that house. They have a right to hear this information. It's not too much to ask for them just to say, 'No, thank you,' if they aren't interested.'"
Feb 6, 2001 COLUMBUS -- "Citizen group sues Marion over curfew on canvassing," (James Drew, Toledo Blade). "The lawsuit, filed by Ohio Citizen Action in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, says the 7 p.m. curfew and a requirement that each canvasser pay a $7.50 registration fee has hindered efforts to educate Marion residents about pollution at the River Valley Schools complex. 'What is the city of Marion afraid of?' said Simona Vaclavikova, program director at Citizen Action’s office in Columbus... Yesterday, Citizen Action officials stopped short of directly accusing Marion officials of trying to squelch attention about the River Valley schools controversy. 'It is very interesting that it started in 1999, when we never had problems before,' said Ms. Vaclavikova. 'People can draw their own links.'"
Feb 5, 2001 CLEVELAND -- "Ohio Citizen Action sues Marion," (release, Simona Vaclavikova, Ohio Citizen Action). "Ohio Citizen Action, the stateís largest consumer and environmental organization, today filed suit against the city of Marion for violations of the First Amendment. The lawsuit charges that the cityís ordinance, which places a 7 p.m. curfew on door-to-door canvassing and charges registration fees for canvassing, is unconstitutional. Full text of complaint, motion for injunction, and declaration of Sandy Buchanan, Executive Director (all .doc)."
Feb 2, 2001 MARION -- "More contamination exposed; Army Corps insists the carcinogens don't create immediate danger for Marion middle school kids," (Jamie Pietras, Columbus Alive). "Ohio Citizen Action Program Director Simona Vaclavikova called officials' response to the latest soil test findings 'absurd.' She points out that levels in some cases were 90 times the level at which an environmental cleanup is required. 'How come when it was much lower, the health risks were considered?' Vaclavikova asked. 'Now that we're talking twice as much [benzo(a)pyrene], parents weren't even notified about that.' "
Jan 30, 2001 MARION -- "River Valley votes to buy new school sites," (Tom Sheehan, Columbus Dispatch). "In three years, a new high school and middle school will emerge at the site. The planned construction is 3 miles southeast of the existing school complex on Rt. 98 near Marion where toxic contamination from a former military depot has been discovered... While the schools are being built, the 800 students at the middle school and high school will remain there."
Jan 27, 2001 MARION -- "Cancer-causing chemical found near schools," (Associated Press). "... activists are calling again for students to be moved. 'This is totally ridiculous,' said Simona Vaclavikova, program director for Ohio Citizen Action. 'They claim itís safe and then they keep finding more and more contamination in different areas. Itís absurd,'"
MARION -- "Why does Ohio EPA persist in persecuting Jayko?," (letter from Howard Jones, Columbus Dispatch).
Jan 21, 2001 COLUMBUS -- " River Valley one of 12 campuses investigated for environmental hazards," Associated Press. "Although River Valley has the worst contamination, according to state EPA officials, findings at six school sites prompted concerns about chemical or soil contamination and five still have active case files: Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland; Fort Hayes Career Center, Columbus; Nike Town and Country School, Cleveland; Pioneer Career and Technical Center, Shelby; and Trumbull Area Multi-purpose Environmental Education Lab, Warren."
Jan 13, 2001 MARION -- "Professor unsure of cause for school leukemia cases," Associated Press. "Mike Griffith, who removed his son from the River Valley schools about a year into the state's environmental investigation, said he was concerned by [Prof. Deborah] Gray's remarks on student safety. 'Officials have never gone there. The Ohio EPA has said, 'We will never know.' How are you erring on the side of safety when you keep schoolchildren in that situation?' he said."
MARION -- "River Valley on verge of picking sites for four new schools," Tom Sheehan, Columbus Dispatch.
Jan 10, 2001 CLEVELAND -- "Postmodern journalism: News you can't really use," Lisa Chamberlain, editorial, Cleveland Free Times. "What is Ohio EPAís response now? The agency continues to oppose Jayko's reinstatement as lead investigator at River Valley and is plotting its next legal maneuver to prevent this. It's truly unbelievable. A school, where children go to learn, is on the site of a toxic waste dump. Cancer rates are through the roof. This much is known. Yet the campus is still open and the kids are still attending school, while the Ohio EPA fights its own employee for attempting to investigate. Meanwhile, Governor Bob Taft has no comment. The highest authority in Ohio has no comment about his own agency attempting to railroad a state employee."
Jan 9, 2001 TOLEDO -- "A public servantís 'reward'," editorial, Toledo Blade. "Now the U.S. Labor Department has accused the EPA of violating seven whistleblower statutes by reassigning him to its Bowling Green office. Various appeals are available to the state Attorney General’s office. She should sit on all of them. The EPA seems to have a problem seeing itself as others see it, not an uncommon affliction in government. It will lose what credibility remains to it and to the Taft administration if it continues to make Mr. Jayko a victim." Editorial cartoon.
Jan 6, 2001 COLUMBUS -- "River Valley probe: Critics of EPA praising decision," Jill Riepenhoff and Tom Sheehan, Columbus Dispatch. "'Finally, the truth is starting to win,' said Roxanne Krumanaker, whose daughter, a River Valley graduated, learned she had leukemia in 1993. The parent of another cancer patient, Don Milliard, said the Labor Department's ruling invention should serve as a sign to the Ohio EPA to stop opposing Jayko's return. 'How many times do they have to be told they screwed up?' "
Jan 5, 2001 COLUMBUS -- "Toledo man claims whistleblower status; U.S. enters fray to aid Ohio EPA employee," James Drew, Toledo Blade. "In another setback for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the federal government has sided with a Toledo man who is fighting to get his assignment back investigating possible links between pollutants and leukemia in Marion." Editorial cartoon.
TOLEDO -- "Feds back EPA investigator in cancer case," (Associated Press).
News from 1999 - 2000.
For more information, or to get involved, contact Simona Vaclavikova, Ohio Citizen Action.