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Georiga community wants to know if town toxic

12:52 AM, Nov 15, 2013   |    comments
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WAYCROSS, Ga. -- A south Georgia community wants to know if its town is toxic.

Families in Waycross have reported they've seen an increase in cancer cases their over the past few years.

Waycross Dewey Hilliard has cancer. His wife also has cancer. His father died of cancer. 

"All the time we spend sick and taking care of our family, we could be doing other things," said Hilliard.

He says his family's situation isn't unique in this small railroad community, that'd it'd be easier to county the healthy residents of Waycross instead of the sick. 

The Georgia Department of Public Health is tracking cancer cases in Ware County and neighboring Peirce County, but so far, health officials said they haven't identified a link among the cases to classify it a "cancer cluster."

Hilliard and other Waycross residents think toxins in the soil and water are causing all the illnesses in the community.

"You know, you buy a place. You make payments on it. You try to make it your own and you start raising a family. Life takes over," said Hilliard. "Everything's been kept hush-hush so much that we didn't really know about the chemicals."

In 2005, the Environmental Protection Agency did an emergency clean up at the Seven Out LLC site in Waycross. The federal agency deemed it a "Superfund" site, meaning the agency cleaned up the site after they found it had been contaminated with hazardous materials. Now the EPA is back in Waycross. Agency employees will testing of a waterway in town to determine if materials may have been dumped there before the site was cleaned up.

"The question that we're here to answer, in addition to collecting the community concerns, is informing them of the plan we have to sample the surface water in a drainage ditch and drainage canal that flows through the community," said Matthew Huyser, of the EPA.

State environmental officials will also test around other industrial sites in Waycross to see if any toxic chemicals could be harming the residents from other sites.

Hilliard just wants answers.

"I've got to be there for the rest of my life and until I get answers and until I get somebody to get out there and actually do some work and do what they say they're going to do, then it's like throwing gasoline on a fire," said Hilliard.

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