River Valley Schools, Marion

News, 1999 - 2000

Dec 27, 2000: ELMIRA, NY -- "Specter of Cancer Haunts a School," Randal C. Archbold, New York Times. "Mr. Patros and his wife, Julie, a nurse at a private hospital, were among a group of parents and officials from the neighborhood around the school who sent a letter to the school district in April outlining their concerns about a spate of cancer cases they had heard about from friends and neighbors. This followed the cleanup of the adjacent property, where about 2,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil was removed in 1999 by the new owner of a site where American LaFrance fire trucks were once made."
Dec 19, 2000 COLUMBUS -- "Marion whistleblower needs help by Jan. 5," Toledo Blade. "If the Department of Labor does not intervene on behalf of Mr. Jayko, he can no longer pursue his claims against the state of Ohio, ruled Judge Sargus, an appointee of President Clinton."
Dec 13, 2000 COLUMBUS -- "River Valley OKs funding pacts $24 million influx to help build new school buildings," Tom Sheehan, Columbus Dispatch. "Environmental contamination was discovered at the River Valley campus in state and federal investigations launched when a high rate of leukemia was found among graduates in 1997. The incidence of leukemia has not been linked to the chemicals found at the school grounds, the site of a former military depot. Officials have said they think that the contamination has been contained and that it is safe for the students to remain there. Some residents and others, however, have said the students should be moved immediately. "
Dec 7, 2000 COLUMBUS -- "Uncovering River Valley Schools' atomic secrets," Bob Fitrakis and Jamie Pietras, Columbus Alive. "While politicians and school leaders are busy defending their actions, grassroots groups like Ohio Citizen Action and Concerned River Valley Families continue to pressure Governor Bob Taft to remove children to another location. Citizens and activists have presented the governor with thousands of letters and documentation of the problems in Marion. 'His complete inaction speaks for itself,' Citizen Action's Simona Vaclavikova said of the governor. The group is not satisfied with the promise of a better tomorrow--when new schools are built in three years--while kids sit in the schools today."
Dec 4, 2000 COLUMBUS -- "Ohio PIRG to deliver 1600 postcards asking Gov. Taft to remove River Valley High School and Middle School students immediately," press advisory, Ohio Public Interest Research Group. "The postcards represent a strong desire by Ohio's citizens for the governor to stop agencies from taking chances with students' health." The postcards will be delivered to the Riffe Center, 11:00 AM, Thursday, December 7. For more information: Matthew Fairbanks or Mark Minett, (440) 775-8137.
Nov 15, 2000 MARION -- "Cancer Valley High: The Ohio EPA tells a school district that there's nothing to worry about," David Morton, Cleveland Free Times. "A favored interest is real estate developer Ted Graham, who has spent millions over the last decade refurbishing the nearly two miles of warehouses that used to be the depot complex itself. The easternmost warehouses abut the schoolsí property. According to David Claborn, development director for the Marion area, more than 1,000 jobs depend on Grahamís complex. According to the Concerned Families, no other private-sector figure has been so opposed to their efforts as Ted Graham. Graham would not return calls seeking comment."
Nov 9, 2000 MARION -- "Voters' nod clears way for new River Valley schools," Tom Sheehan, Columbus Dispatch. "Some residents say the students should be moved immediately to temporary quarters to eliminate any health threat. 'It's a concern,' said Jim McGuire, a citizen member of an advisory group that discusses environmental issues in Marion, including River Valley. 'I don't like the idea that it's three years' before the students are moved."
Nov 8, 2000 MARION -- "River Valley bond issue wins big," Tom Sheehan, Columbus Dispatch. "The campaign focused on tying state and federal funds to local money to build two new, bigger elementary schools and relocate the high- and middle-school campus from former U.S. Army land contaminated with chemical waste."
Nov 7, 2000 COLUMBUS -- "U.S. has 30 days to decide on whistleblower lawsuit; Whistleblower seeks $139,789 from Ohio," James Drew, Toledo Blade. "Mike Griffith, a geologist and member of an activist group called Concerned River Valley Families, said he was disappointed with yesterday’s decision by Judge Sargus. 'I would encourage the U.S. Department of Labor to get involved on Mr. Jayko’s side because someone has to make the Ohio EPA do its job,' he said."
COLUMBUS -- "Whistle-blower lawsuit may hinge on federal agency; EPA employee can't sue alone, U.S. judge rules," Robert Ruth, Columbus Dispatch.
Nov 1, 2000 COLUMBUS -- Oral arguments set in Ohio EPA appeal of Jayko decision: Monday, Nov 6, 11:00 am in the courtroom of Judge Edmund A. Sargus, Jr., Federal Court House, 85 Marconi Avenue, on the northwest corner of Marconi and Long, Columbus. The session will be open to public, everyone is encouraged to come. For more information, contact Simona Vaclavikova, Ohio Citizen Action (614) 263-4111.
Oct 20, 2000 MARION -- "Records: EPA stayed mum on contamination; Discovery of school grounds’ past angers Marion residents," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade. "The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has known that contaminated waste was being dumped next door to the main River Valley school district campus here since at least 1978, records show. Yet Ohio EPA officials did not inform the public about it in 1997, when the state health department announced an unusually high leukemia rate in the Marion area."
Oct 18, 2000 MARION -- "Three River Valley leukemia survivors appeal to Gov. Taft," Oct 12 letter to Gov. Bob Taft from Amanda Lovett, Jami Cummings and Kim Tolnar. "Much of the land is fenced and off-limits and millions of dollars have been spent to study our school. There are also millions appropriated to moving our schools. What we don't understand is why there are students still there."
Oct 9, 2000 MARION -- "The threat to River Valley students," Howard Jones letter to Director Nick Baird, Ohio Department of Health. "Is your agency taking the position that you can only assure the Superintendent that there are no health risks that would cause, in the short term, adverse health impacts on the students? If this is so, then please explain to me what are the possible health risks the students may be subject to if they spend several years at the campus due to the chemical contamination."
Oct 7, 2000 COLUMBUS -- "State sues U.S. over ruling on Marion whistleblower," James Drew, Toledo Blade. "The state yesterday sued U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and the federal Department of Labor, in a desperate attempt to avoid paying a $139,789 settlement to a state environmental regulator who helped start an investigation of leukemia cases in Marion, O.... [Mr. Jayko’s attorney, E. Dennis Muchnicki] said Governor Taft and Ohio EPA Director Chris Jones are 'making the coverup their own. Why are they doing all of these things to keep Jayko away from the Marion files? What secrets is Chris Jones trying to protect?'"
Oct 7, 2000 COLUMBUS -- "Immunity offered to depot workers," Tom Sheehan, Columbus Dispatch. "The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Ohio and the Army Corps of Engineers have reached an understanding that workers will not be prosecuted for activities that occurred before those Marion facilities closed."
Oct 7, 2000 COLUMBUS -- "Ohio EPA files suit to block court order," Michael Hawthorne, Columbus Dispatch. "[Ohio] EPA Director Chris Jones acknowledged earlier this week that the agency has a "credibility problem'' in Marion, but he questioned the legality of the order reinstating Jayko."
Oct 6, 2000 COLUMBUS -- "Activists laud ruling against Ohio EPA; Citizens group contends judge's decision proves agency isn't trustworthy," Kate Roberts, Associated Press. "'Here we have a federal judge saying all the things we've said on the record about the massive, ongoing cover-up at the OEPA,' said Simona Vaclavikova, program director for Ohio Citizen Action."
Oct 6, 2000 MARION -- "Judge sides with EPA whistleblower," Tom Henry, James Drew, Toledo Blade. "Mike Griffith, a geologist and member of an activist group called Concerned River Valley Families, disagreed with the Ohio EPA director’s view. 'A judge has very meticulously outlined what we had suspected. Reality has hit us in the face like a brick. It will be disgustingly absurd if the state appeals this decision,' he said."
Oct 6, 2000 COLUMBUS -- "EPA to appeal critical ruling in River Valley probe," Michael Hawthorne, Columbus Dispatch "This has been a battle of David vs. Goliath and David has won,' said Mike Griffith, who transferred his son out of River Valley schools. 'The deception of the people of Marion needs to stop right here, right now.'"
Oct 5, 2000 COLUMBUS -- "Ohio EPA Guilty of Cover-up in Investigation," Jo Ingles, Ohio Public Radio "... the judge is scolding the agency for the way it treated Jayco, and the way it's handled the investigation into whether pollution at the schools is causing leukemia."
Oct 5, 2000 COLUMBUS -- Photos from press conference following the Paul Jayko v. Ohio EPA decision. Remarks from Mike Griffith, Concerned River Valley Families; Marilyn Wall, Ohio chapter Sierra Club and Rivers Unlimited; Simona Vaclavikova, Ohio Citizen Action; Michael D. Kohn, National Whistleblower Center.
Oct 5, 2000 COLUMBUS -- "Judge rules Ohio EPA illegally punished investigator," Associated Press. "The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency illegally punished the coordinator of a contamination investigation and must reinstate him, an administrative law judge has ruled... [Judge Thomas F. Phalen Jr. of Cincinnati] said [Paul] Jayco cannot be punished for writing critical internal memos of an investigation of possible links between contaminated soil on the River Valley High School campus in Marion County and the number of leukemia cases among graduates."
Oct 5, 2000 COLUMBUS -- "Judge scolds Ohio EPA; Former coordinator of River Valley case to get his job back," Michael Hawthorne, Columbus Dispatch. "One Jayko memo, dated Oct. 15, 1997, took issue with tests of Marion's drinking water that failed to look for heavy metals, pesticides and a category of cancer-causing chemicals known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. '[Ohio EPA] management viewed this as 'making them look foolish, making them look like they didn't know what they were doing,' according to testimony during Jayko's administrative hearing last year."
Oct 2, 2000 CINCINNATI -- "Paul Jayko v. Ohio EPA: Recommended decision and order and preliminary order," Judge Thomas F. Phalen, Jr., Office of Administrative Law Judges, U.S. Department of Labor. Full text of this scathing decision against the Ohio EPA, Part One (146 KB), Part Two (205 KB).
Sep 30, 2000 MARION -- "State agencies dispute River Valley findings," Frank Hinchey, Columbus Dispatch. "Although a state study determined that the rate of leukemia is high among River Valley graduates, school officials have been told the campus is safe."
Sep 22, 2000 COLUMBUS -- "Weekly vigil for students at River Valley Schools," flyer, Ohio Citizen Action. "River Valley Middle and High School students in Marion are attending school on grounds contaminated with deadly toxic chemicals. Governor Bob Taft must do something immediately."
Aug 21, 2000 COLUMBUS -- "Photos: Vigil for students at River Valley Schools, Gov. Bob Taft's Bexley mansion." "On the evening of August 21, Marion parents and Columbus supporters held a vigil at Ohio Gov. Bob Taft's mansion in Bexley to let him know the people of Ohio want him to close the River Valley Schools and reassign the students to other schools immediately."
Aug 16, 2000 COLUMBUS -- "Cancer threat prompted River Valley parent to transfer daughter," Tom Sheehan, Columbus Dispatch. "This month, Snyder and his wife, Pam, said they had transferred their daughter, A.J., to nearby Pleasant High School because of their concerns about a cancer threat at River Valley believed linked to toxic contamination of the school site. Mrs. Snyder has had breast cancer, and the family is concerned about the added risk that could mean for their daughter, who will be a sophomore. Two sons previously graduated from River Valley. "
Aug 16, 2000 COLUMBUS -- "Ready for Gov. Bob Taft's signature: Executive Order, Stopping the opening of River Valley Junior and Senior High Schools in Marion and ordering the reassignment of all students," Noreen Warnock, Ohio Citizen Action. "WHEREAS, the state government has `supervision of all matters relating to the preservation of the life and health of the people' and `may make and enforce order in local matters when an emergency exists, or when the board of health of a general or city health district has neglected or refused to act with sufficient promptness or efficiency.' (Ohio Revised Code Section 3701.13)."
Aug 16, 2000 COLUMBUS -- "Vigil for students at River Valley Schools, Governor's Mansion, Bexley, 8:00 p.m., Monday, August 21," leaflet, Ohio Citizen Action. "If a tornado roared through Marion and destroyed the River Valley Middle and High Schools, the state government would show up within hours to find a safe place for the children to learn. The River Valley Schools are just as uninhabitable, and the state government has spent years dragging its feet."
Aug 10, 2000COLUMBUS -- "Tell them not to send the students back to the River Valley schools in Marion on August 22," action alert, Noreen Warnock Ohio Citizen Action.
Aug 10, 2000ELMIRA, NY -- "Toxic school? Cluster of student cancer cases leaves families fearful in Elmira, N.Y.," Robert Davis, USA Today. "The pool of water on the old industrial site is infamously known across this town of 35,000 as ''the pond that never freezes.'' More than a century of mighty industrial use has left the land where the school was built a known hot zone.... Over the past three years, 13 Southside students have been diagnosed with cancer of various kinds. Since the school opened in 1979, at least 40 students have been stricken. That's out of about 4,200 students who have ever attended the school.... Meanwhile, some parents are wondering whether they should send their children back to classes next month or keep them home for fear the children will end up in the student support group known as the 'cancer club.'"
Aug 6, 2000MARION -- "River Valley board member transfers daughter," Rita Price, Columbus Dispatch. "A.J. Snyder will go to nearby Pleasant High School, primarily because her mother cannot stomach the uncertainty any longer. 'I don't know if there's anything there or not,' a teary Mrs. Snyder said yesterday. 'But I have had cancer, so would we be double-exposing her? If she were to come to me later, and she had cancer and asked, 'Why didn't you take me out?', what would I say?'"
Aug 6, 2000DELAWARE -- "Ohio must get students off polluted grounds," letter, Howard Jones, Columbus Dispatch. "Ohio must take steps now to remove the children from the campus and relocate them until new schools can be built. Why should the children of River Valley be required to reach a bar of proof so high that it would take years of studies to prove? This is not a hypothetical situation, since the health of many alumni has already been affected. Ohio needs to set aside its concerns about setting a precedent and to stop focusing on the economics and start focusing on the welfare of the children. To do any less is unconscionable and villainous."
Aug 6, 2000MARION -- "Marion students at risk, expert says; Toxicologist criticizes air monitoring at contaminated River Valley site," Tom Sheehan, Columbus Dispatch. "[Environmental consultant Bruce Molholt] said he thinks the 800 students who attend River Valley, as well as others who work at or use the schools, are at risk for toxic contamination and should be relocated.... A plan is under way to use a combination of state, federal and local funds to build two schools. However, students wouldn't be moved until schools are built, and no cleanup of contamination would be done until after the students are gone. Molholt said that's too long to wait and that it's likely such a plan could take longer to complete, leaving the students at their current schools for a longer period of time."
Jul 7, 2000MARION -- "State EPA pushes for river cleanup," Michael Hawthorne, Columbus Dispatch. "A biological survey released yesterday by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency found concentrations of chemicals known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, in a 6-mile stretch of the river just downstream from where Marion gets some of its drinking water.... Some of the chemicals, commonly found in tar and petroleum-based waste, have caused cancer in laboratory animals. PAHs can damage internal organs and cause dizziness, nausea, skin rashes and headaches."
May 26, 2000MARION -- "Chemical concerns at River Valley aired," Tom Sheehan, Columbus Dispatch. "While plans call for new school buildings in three years, airborne chemical contaminants could affect students and others at River Valley high and middle schools in the meantime unless the site is cleaned up, some residents said last night."
May 20, 2000MARION -- "Funds to move schools to come from 3 sources," Tom Sheehan, Columbus Dispatch.
May 19, 2000MARION -- "Deal reached to move schools from chemical investigation site," Charlie Gillespie, Associated Press. " 'We are getting mixed messages,' [Lisa Hollaway, an English teacher at River Valley High School] said. 'They tell us it's safe, now they tell us we have to relocate. There must be something wrong if they're making us move.'"
COLUMBUS -- "Marion schools to be moved off toxic site", Leslie Siegel, WCMH-Channel 4 (NBC)
MARION -- "Battle to close school due to cancer scare almost won," Natalie Walston, Ohio Public Radio
WASHINGTON, DC -- "House vote helps River Valley; Bill first step to moving schools off contaminated site," Tom Sheehan, Ann Fisher, Columbus Dispatch.
Press releases from U.S. Congressman Michael Oxley, Ohio Governor Bob Taft, and River Valley Schools.
May 5, 2000COLUMBUS -- "Onlookers display views in signs of the times," Ruth E. Sternberg, Columbus Dispatch "A group fighting a hazardous-waste incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio, showed up to hand out literature. Ohio Citizen Action joined families seeking help for the contaminated campus of River Valley High School in Marion County. They hoped some of their leaflets would make their way into the president's hands."
Apr 28, 2000 MARION -- "River Valley investigation District requests more air, soil tests," Tom Sheehan, Columbus Dispatch. "[Kevin Jasper of the Army Corps of Engineers] said another study that proposes what to do about the contamination has been delayed indefinitely. It was to have been released at the end of April."
Mar 6, 2000 MARION -- "River Valley investigation costs district, government $3 million," Tom Sheehan, Columbus Dispatch. "Enrollment has dropped by more than 100 students in the past two years, leaving about 800 students at the high school and middle school. Shade and other school officials say either the 78-acre school site, built on grounds where toxic materials were dumped, must be returned to near pristine condition or new schools must be built at another location."
Feb 23, 2000 MARION -- "Marion cancer scare, Part 2 of 2," April Baer, WCPN, Cleveland, Ohio Public Radio. "New information is due out this week about environmental problems in Marion, Ohio. State and military teams are investigating what appears to be an unusually high rate of leukemia and other cancers among graduates of River Valley Schools. The district is demanding the government step in to help. "
Feb 22, 2000 MARION -- "Marion cancer scare, Part 1 of 2," April Baer, WCPN, Cleveland, Ohio Public Radio. "This week families in Marion, Ohio are hoping to get some answers. In the small town of about 40,000, graduates of the River Valley School district have been getting leukemia at an alarming rate. For years, state officials have been looking into a possible cause."
Feb 9, 2000 MARION -- "River Valley schools: Army to answer claim for damages; It has until the end of the month to say whether it will pay to replace contaminated schools," Jill Riepenhoff, Columbus Dispatch
Jan 29, 2000 MARION -- "Surveyor insists Marion radiation study is inaccurate," Tom Sheehan, Columbus Dispatch
Jan 28, 2000 MARION -- "No problems found with River Valley radiation sampling; Three investigations found no basis for a North Carolina man's allegations that test results were doctored," Tom Sheehan, Columbus Dispatch
Jan 27, 2000 MARION -- "Ohio EPA seeking ex-depot employees; the agency wants more clues about contamination on River Valley school grounds," Tom Sheehan, Columbus Dispatch
Jan 22, 2000 COLUMBUS -- "EPA gets favorable ruling in dispute; An agency supervisor wasn't punished for backing a whistle-blower, a fact-finder said," Randall Edwards, Columbus Dispatch.
Jan 13, 2000 COLUMBUS -- "Ohio EPA questions dearth of interviews; Some former Army workers have yet to be asked about waste-disposal practices at the old Marion depot," Jill Riepenhoff, Columbus Dispatch.
Jan 8, 2000 CALEDONIA -- "River Valley probe still has problems," Mike Griffith, letter, Columbus Dispatch.
Jan 5, 2000 COLUMBUS -- "EPA faults Marion investigation," Jill Riepenhoff, Columbus Dispatch.
Dec 19, 1999 MARION -- "Second chemical detected at campus; Marion school officials restrict access to area where toxin was found," Associated Press.
Dec 8, 1999 MARION -- "EPA supervisor requests whistle-blower status; the official says the Ohio agency is punishing him for testifying about a probe in Marion," Randall Edwards, Columbus Dispatch.
Dec 5, 1999 MARION -- "Marion cleanup excludes schools; New buildings are not an option under its plan, the Army Corps of Engineers says," Jill Riepenhoff and Tom Sheehan, Columbus Dispatch.
Nov 8, 1999 MARION -- "High levels of lead, chromium found at Marion County campus," Associated Press.
Oct 28, 1999 COLUMBUS -- "Engineer corps to investigate Marion lab site," T.C. Brown, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Oct 16, 1999 COLUMBUS -- "Leukemia-cluster reports draw inspectors to Marion," T.C. Brown, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Oct 13, 1999 MARION -- "Radiation stories told by families; Reports of contamination in Marion, Ohio, prompted an investigation," David Lore, Columbus Dispatch.
Oct 9, 1999 MARION -- "Leukemia fears, man's scary take trigger Marion radiation probe," T.C. Brown, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Oct 8, 1999 MARION -- "EPA steps up search for lead in Marion soils; Testing the Sugar Street Area found the metal in amounts exceeding health standards," Randall Edwards, Columbus Dispatch.
Sep 23, 1999 MARION -- "State inquiry to check tests at Marion site," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
Sep 14, 1999 MARION -- "Company hired by River Valley schools finds no excessive radiation," Associated Press.
Sep 13, 1999 MARION -- "Latest River Valley test results in," Stu Nicholson and Bob Singleton, WCMH Channel 4 Columbus (NBC).
Sep 4, 1999 COLUMBUS -- "Some skeptical of EPA tests showing River Valley air is safe; Army Corps of engineers conducting a separate study," Randall Edwards, Columbus Dispatch.
Aug 28, 1999 COLUMBUS -- "Radiation tester says findings at Marion site were doctored; an investigator says supervisors returned altered reports for him and others to re-sign," Bill Bush, Columbus Dispatch.
Aug 13, 1999 COLUMBUS -- Activists want Taft to reinstate Marion whistleblower Paul Jayko.
Aug 13, 1999 COLUMBUS -- "Ohio EPA wants former military sites checked, cleaned up" Randall Edwards, Columbus Dispatch.
Aug 11, 1999 MARION -- Concerned River Valley Families statement regarding Marion whistleblower Paul Jayko.
Jul 31, 1999 COLUMBUS -- "EPA officials says staffer was moved to prevent 'leaks,'" Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
Jul 29, 1999 COLUMBUS -- "Prober says EPA gave him 'backwater' jobs," Randall Edwards, Columbus Dispatch.
Jun 11, 1999 COLUMBUS -- "Marion cleanup expenses estimated," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
Apr 16, 1999 COLUMBUS -- Marion toxic contamination: "Head of Ohio EPA demands results of leukemia study," Toledo Blade.
Feb 26, 1999COLUMBUS -- Ohio Citizen Action and a large coalition of state and local environmental groups call on the U.S. EPA to investigate the Ohio EPA's failure to act on toxic contamination in Marion.
Feb 16, 1999 COLUMBUS -- Ohio Citizen Action and a large coalition of state and local environmental groups call on Gov. Bob Taft for swift action on toxic contamination in Marion. The groups want two Marion schools evacuated immediately. Full text of letter, Columbus Dispatch articles on letter, Ohio EPA response; Dispatch editorial.
Feb 12, 1999COLUMBUS -- Ohio EPA Director Chris Jones letter to Governor Bob Taft outlines the agency's public relations approach to school contamination in Marion. (Letter in pdf format.