Amherst residents and state lawmakers are calling on the state to act following a 7 Eyewitness News I-Team investigation of cancer in Amherst.
"It's alarming and needs to be discussed and researched," resident Juliane Gallo wrote on the Facebook page that Amherst residents created to share their cancer concerns.
State Sen. Michael H. Ranzenhofer and Assemblyman Raymond W. Walter, both Republicans of Amherst, agreed in phone interviews Wednesday that the state should investigate the issue.
"I'm very concerned about it," Ranzenhofer said. "At a very preliminary nature, [soil testing] would be the very least that should be done. That's what the Department of Health and the DEC is supposed to do. All these people own property and they're paying taxes, they're paying state taxes. This is one of the services that, at the very least should be done for them."
7 Eyewitness News reached out to both the State Health Department and the State Department of Environmental Conservation before the original story was published. The health department said it was "not aware" of any cancer cluster in Amherst and the DEC said "sufficient evidence" needed to exist before it would investigate.
The I-Team investigation revealed dozens of residents living in close proximity who have developed various forms of cancer. Experts cautioned that it is hard to determine if environmental factors were to blame, but the investigation showed there have been some possibly toxic uses of land in that part of Amherst.
The Dana Heights neighborhood, where most of the residents live, was used previously as an airport which reportedly had a fueling station, and at least one former town official doubted whether the area would have been remediated before houses were built there.
Wednesday, a health department spokeswoman released this statement:
“While an investigation for this area has not been requested by the community, interested community members are welcome to contact the Department at 518-473-7817, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss their concerns and provide detailed information. Review of relevant information will help the Department to determine if an investigation is warranted.”
A DEC spokeswoman provided this statement:
New York State encourages anyone with information about possible contamination or past use of this location to contact the NYSDEC Region 9 Office, Environmental Remediation Program, at 270 Michigan Avenue in Buffalo or at 716-851-7220.
Ranzenhofer and Walter said they are willing to be advocates for residents if they have difficulty getting through to these agencies. Ranzenhofer's office can be reached at (716) 631-8695 or email@example.com and Walter's office can be reached at 634-1895 or firstname.lastname@example.org.