Date: Thursday, January 27, 2000
Section: NEWS
Page: 06C
Tom Sheehan
Dispatch Staff Reporter

MARION, Ohio -- The Ohio

EPA wants to interview former military employees about military toxic-waste disposal practices at the former Marion Engineering Depot, currently the site of two schools.

Some interviews have been conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which during the past two years has investigated contamination at the River Valley middle- and high-school campus. The state Environmental Protection Agency this month criticized the thoroughness of those interviews.

Jeff Steers, assistant chief of the EPA's Bowling Green office, told several dozen people at a public information session last night at Tri-Rivers Career Center that the EPA received about 100 names from the corps and will try to interview those people.

"We may not get a lot of new information, but I think it's important we ask the questions,'' Steers said. "We will document their responses and give them to the corps.''

He said he hopes the EPA will talk to people who weren't interviewed by the corps.

After the meeting, he said Bill Livingston, a former Army employee who was unhappy he hadn't been interviewed at length by the corps, was recently interviewed by the EPA. Livingston, 74, had shown the Army two years ago where to find some of the buried waste.

Steers also said the EPA would have an interview session at River Valley High School from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 5 for anyone wishing to provide information about disposal practices at the former depot.

Kevin Jasper, the corps' chief investigator on the River Valley project, said there have been disagreements among the agencies involved in the investigation but that he is just interested in cooperation.

"We'll work with the Ohio EPA,'' he said. "We hope they'll find some additional information we can use.''

Jasper said a report will be issued Feb. 24 by the corps detailing the extent of contamination on the most-contaminated area of the schools: a 6-acre site of athletic fields. A study listing various alternatives to cleaning up the whole school site is to be released in March, he said.

Robert Indian, of the Ohio Department of Health, discussed the agency's review of leukemia cases in Marion County.

He said between 1992 and 1998, 68 leukemia cases were identified. Those 68 include several River Valley graduates from years that the health department already knew about. Indian said 32 of the cases have been reviewed, and 14 involve people who had some contact with River Valley, either as graduates or visitors for such things as sporting events. He could not say how long it will take to conduct the review, which began last year.

The two schools, which have more than 800 students, are more than 30 years old and cover 78 acres of the 640-acre former military depot. Equipment was stored and repaired there from World War II through the early 1960s.

The 6-acre site, just west of the high school and middle school, has been fenced off since 1997 because of the presence of high levels of cancer-causing chemicals.

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