The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just began removing barrels from a Supefund site near the Le Roy, New York school that is at the epicenter of the headline-making Tourette’s-like outbreak that has affected a number of residents there.
Located in Genesee County, New York, the Superfund site is believed by many to be the culprit in the growing outbreak, which has also been deemed by one physician as so-called “Conversion Disorder,” also known as “Mass Psychogenic Illness” when seen in groups. Neurologist Dr. Laszlo Mechtler examined some of the girls and described the disorder as a “physical manifestation of psychological stress,” said the Buffalo News.
However, many in Le Roy believe that the problem stems from environmental sources, including a train derailment that spilled toxic chemicals near the school over 40 years ago, or a brine spill that took place last year on the school’s grounds.
The barrels, according to a news release from Representative Kathleen Hochul’s office (Democrat-Hamburg), would be removed by the end of the week and moved to a Belleville, Michigan landfill. As we reported previously, they were left in the wake of the 1970 train derailment, which spilled cyanide and trichloroethene (TCE) in Le Roy. According to a 1999 EPA report, the spill dumped 35,000 gallons of TCE, an industrial solvent, about 3 ½ miles from the Le Roy Junior-Senior High School. Many believe that the school, which was built in 2006, might have been constructed with contaminated supplies.
“Removing these barrels is a critical step forward to ensuring that we clean up this site and put public health and safety first,” U.S. Senator Charles Schumer said in the same release, which credited Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and followed talks with EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck, said Buffalo News. “The people who live, work, and visit Le Roy deserve the peace of mind that comes with knowing that the area is free from contaminants, and removing these barrels is an important part of that process,” the release continued.
Earlier this week, we reported that a toxic brine tank spill onto the Le Roy Junior/Senior High School athletics fields was also being eyed by some as a possible cause of the mystery ailments. New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC), inspectors discovered that two “brine” tanks spilled toxic fluids onto the athletic fields in July, but it was never reported publically. A potentially radioactive fluid, “brine” is a produced water tht results from natural gas drilling, and often contains chlorides, bromides, and heavy metals. It has been noted that trees and vegetation near that the site of that brine spill are dead.
At least 19 people in Le Roy—most teenage girls, one teen boy, and a woman, 36—have displayed similar symptoms since last fall that include twitching, convulsions, tics, stammer, and joint pain. Two cases in Corinth, New York, were recently deemed unrelated to the Le Roy cases after the Health Department deemed the Le Roy cases noncontagious. Both Corinth girls traveled to Le Roy before the symptoms began manifesting in people there.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have offered second opinions to the diagnosis provided by Dr. Mechtler.