Parents worried about a possible connection between several cases of childhood cancer in West Salem won’t get any answers until mid-January.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s preliminary site assessment, originally scheduled for release in the fall, then pushed back to mid-December, has again been postponed.
“The report and clarification process is taking longer than expected,” EPA spokesman Mark MacIntyre said Monday.
The study was launched in response to demands from the public after 17-year-old West Salem High School student Lisa Harder died in November 2012. She was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in 2009.
At least four other West Salem youths have been diagnosed with the same type of bone cancer in recent years.
The EPA is testing for contaminants such as pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls, semivolatile organic compounds such as paint, and metals such as mercury.
They’re also testing for the presence of radium, found in some drinking water sources, that has been connected with osteosarcoma. There are no known sources of radium in West Salem.
In June, an EPA contractor took samples at Walker Middle School, West Salem High School, Orchard Heights City Park, Wallace Marine Park, and the field at Seventh and Patterson streets. Control samples also were taken at Minto-Brown Island Park.
Federal, state and local officials also are considering a possible link between radon and osteosarcoma in West Salem. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is present in soil. West Salem has especially high levels of radon.
Craig Prosser, who is serving as a liason for the families and other concerned residents, said he was surprised by the news of the delay.
Prosser’s son, Tyler, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma last year.
“Everybody’s just kind of waiting and holding steady until we get a report,” Prosser said. “We can’t really move forward until we get a report from the EPA.”
MacIntyre said the report was slowed by the government shutdown, which lasted from Oct. 1-16. That slowed the lab’s progress in delivering data, he said.
“We understand that the community is looking for more information and we are committed to delivering our findings as soon as they are ready,” he said.
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Go to StatesmanJournal.com/news to see previous stories and documents about the West Salem cancer cases.