Crowd turns out to hear about cancer concerns
The meeting is led by a woman from Summitville who lost her son at age 4 this past April.
ELLENVILLE >> Kim Candela has a tough road ahead.
Her journey began with the death this past April of her 4-year-old son, Jackson Joshua Smith, from brain cancer.
Monday evening, the Summitville woman led a meeting at Ellenville Village Hall, where she told her story, shared some of the things she learned along the way and spoke of her effort to learn why so many of her neighbors have fallen ill.
It was a battle for Candela just to get a speaking venue from tight-lipped public officials, none of whom attended her event.
Residents who did attend warned Candela that others who previously tried to prove a cancer cluster were run out of town.
“I don’t plan on stopping, regardless of any hurdles I come across,” Candela said after the meeting.
Candela was living in Ellenville, which is in the Ulster County town of Wawarsing, while pregnant with her Jackson. He died of brain cancer on April 12, 2016.
Candela now lives in Summitville, in the Sullivan County town of Mamakating, about 6 miles south of Ellenville.
Sticking to what she said were facts, Candela on Monday presented an overview of the major toxic waste sites around the area, including a local iron scrap yard, a paper mill and Ellenville’s former Channel Master factory, operated by German company VAW from 1965 to 2002 and now being demolished, with Hydro Aluminum, an old smelting facility, the last remaining relic.
All of these locations were projected onto a map, in a slide show presentation facilitated by volunteers, as Candela elaborated on possible correlation with local cancer cases.
“The VAW is hard to talk about, there isn’t a lot of data, a little fishy about that place because you can’t really find much,” she said.
One attendee, Butch Smartwood,65, said he worked at VAW and suffered three separate bouts of Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Part way through the meeting, a teacher asked if the group knew about a long list, compiled during the 1990s, of cancer victims among school district staff members.
The VAW site is behind the Ellenville Central School District property, a complex that houses primary and secondary school buildings, plus athletic fields. Questions remain unanswered about the demolition process of the factories and the ultimate disposition of the debris. Men in moon suits and a water bubbler have been observed there.
Also discussed were diseases other than cancer that the identified contaminants can cause.
A lively roundtable conversation followed.
“We’re going to make a closed Facebook group for people who want to help organize things,” Candela said, adding that door-todoor canvassing also is planned to gather more testimonials.
“It’s obvious there’s an issue in the area. They (authorities) can’t ignore it,” she said. “Were going to try to have a newsletter and, hopefully, another meeting in the beginning of December.”
Kim Candela addresses the crowd in the Ellenville Village Hall on Monday.
Kim Candela is shown with her son, Jackson Joshua Smith, who died this past April at age 4.