Cancer survivor warns of Port Clinton cancer cluster

July 16, 2010 9:00:00 PM PDT
A cancer survivor believes there is a possible cancer cluster in Port Clinton. She's been working with the Ohio Department of Health in the hopes of finding answers. Now she's reaching out to the community. Maria Claus Konoff grew up in Port Clinton. The 42 year old now lives with her family in Ottawa Hills. She's going back to Port Clinton next week to host a community action meeting.

Maria Claus Konoff has spent the past year collecting the names of people fighting cancer. "I've actually spoken to 100 people who have been afflicted with this diagnosis," she says.

Some live in Port Clinton; others, like Konoff, moved away after high school. Her investigation consists of talking to friends and using Facebook. She ultimately wants to know whether something in Port Clinton made her and others sick. "For me to know that many people as an individual, I just think it's not acceptable. It raised a concern that has to be questioned as to what could be causing this," she says.

Thanks to pressure from Konoff, the Ohio Department of Health is conducting a Port Clinton cancer assessment. They're gathering and analyzing the number of cancer cases reported from 1996 to 2007 to determine if they are high enough to warrant a cancer cluster investigation.

Konoff is also pushing for a soil inspection of the high school playing fields. That's because a woman from California who runs a website called ToxicSites.org tipped Konoff off to a U.S. Geological Survey map that shows those fields were built on top of an old sewage disposal. "What's confusing to me is that something as simple as a phase 2 soil inspection is not already in the process of being done," says Konoff.

In the meantime, Konoff is asking for help. Next week she is hosting a meeting. She hopes to attract community leaders and "people who have been touched by cancer, people who are passionate about taking this cause forward and holding the city, state, and federal officials accountable."

The community meeting will take place Wednesday, July 21 at 7 pm at the Our Guest Inn on Perry Street in Port Clinton. A representative from the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice will head the meeting.