Environmental Officials Ease Ardmore Residents' Concerns

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01-04-07 According to the State Health Department, Carter County ranks 17th in the state in the number of deaths due to cancer.
Many residents feared an abandoned crude oil refinery Northeast of town may be to blame for some cases.
Thursday night, environmental officials put those fears to rest.

Dorothy Holley was two and a half hours away, receiving chemotherapy when her nurse asked a question that shocked her.
Her nurse asked, "We're receiving lots of cancer patients form Ardmore. What's going on? Do you know something I don't know?"

Her nurse then told her about an old refinery North of town and the wheels started turning. Fearing that chemicals from the environment contributed to her cancer, Holley sat down at the computer and typed the words "cancer, statistics, ardmore" into a search engine.
When she hit enter, a 23 page document popped up about the Imperial Refinery.

"It put a puzzle in my mind. I had no idea cancer could be in the city," Holley said.

Although the refinery was abandoned in 1948 when the company went bankrupt, rusty drums, holding ponds and resevoirs were left behind for 70 years.

So, in 2005, the EPA and DEQ launched a study to address possible contaminants. That is what brought Dorothy and dozens of other residents to the Ardmore Public Library Thursday night.

Although soil and water samples revealed hydrocarbons that could cause cancer and other health problems, researchers say the levels discovered were not high enough to pose a risk to humans.

Geologist Dan McLemore said the contaminants pose no risk to the community.

Refreshing news for residents like Dorothy Holley, who spoke out Thursday, raising questions so that others won't have to endure the same pain she has gone through.

The next step is the clean up. Both agencies will seek public input on what their options are, then develop a plan.