Cancer Clusters

McCullom Lake Cancer Cluster

This past week the Northwest Herald reported that the first set of civil lawsuits in the McCullom Lake Cancer Cluster have begun in a courtroom in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

It has been over four years since the first set of plaintiffs filed with their attorney. They are now finally getting their day in court. I say “the first set” because 32 plaintiffs have filed since 2006. You may have read my blog back in February that touched on my friend Mike Betts and how his family had to deal with the loss of his father Ken. Mike and his family are one of the 32 families that are involved in the lawsuits so I feel like this needs some additional awareness from our organization.

I won’t get into the civil case or the reporting done by the Northwest Herald but to educate yourself you should take the time to read what has happened. I have my own opinions and have had discussions with people but I am asking you to come to your own conclusion. Either way, you decide, but 32 families are dealing with or have dealt with members of the family dying or becoming deathly ill from cancer. All of these people had one thing in common. They all lived in McCullom Lake at one point in their life.

Again, read the information provided.

McCullom Lake Map

I am also following this closely on a personal level for a couple of reasons.

First, Mike is a very close friend and I would like his family to have some closure. They deserve it. They are very loving and caring people. His mother is one of the kindest people I have ever met. Mike’s father was always quick with a joke and always had a smile on his face. My dad always enjoyed a cup of coffee with Mr. Betts and said he always had a funny story for him.

These are people that raised families here, volunteered in our schools, churches and community.

Secondly, I own this home in McCollum Lake and have for years. I have a rental property that my wife and I have put thousands of dollars into in hopes that one day, we could sell it at a profit or maybe use it as a summer home. Not only has the hope of selling it become a nightmare, but because of the lawsuits no one wants to live in that area. I recently got a card in the mail asking if I would be interested in having my well tested at no charge. Of course I mailed it back and checked the “yes” box. But, even if it comes back clear of Vinyl Chlorides it won’t matter, people have a negative opinion about that area.

Mike and I have discussed what the lawsuits have done to property values and how the village has received poor public relations but, as Mike has said, the contamination problems seem to be gone with the changes made in the 80’s. But but the real damage was done well before that.

This past week I spoke with Shawn Strach who owns and operates Dream Real Estate here in the McHenry area and he told me that overall home value in Northern Illinois is down about 24% in value when comparing to 2006 and that the McCullom Lake Village is down from that an additional 15%. I feel sorry for the people that own homes in that area because some of them are involved in the lawsuit and are in an awkward position because neighbors can’t sell their homes. The special report the Northwest Herald did on the Village is titled “A State of Limbo”.

That’s an understatement.


  • My thoughts and prayers go out to the Betts’ family and the other families involved in this horrific situation.

    Comment by Tracy Gerber — September 27, 2010 @ 9:21 am

  • Great blog Craig. It is sad enough that these poor people have lost love ones, or have loved ones currently suffering. I personally hope justice falls on the right side of this mess. We all know big $$$ can severely change the outcome of a court case (remember OJ’s mockery?). For the Betts Family, and all the other families that have been affected, God bless you all, we are here for you.

    Comment by Mike Mazrin — September 27, 2010 @ 1:32 pm

  • It is well known that the contamination has effected McCullom Lake, however; what is not being discussed is it’s effects on Ringwood itself. Because it can be proved that the aquifer flows south the comtamination can be more directly linked to McCullom Lake, however homes parallel to the plant were effected to but not according to the lawsuit.

    I had lived there all my life from the late 60′s to early 2000. I lived less that 1000 feet from the plant, I along with my friends in ringwood as children would walk from a path behind the neighbor across the street to the railroad tracks that served the plant. We would play in the woods and in the creek that ran from the plants property and under a bridge to mc cullom lake. We did his in the early 70′s through the 80′s not knowing what we were exposing ourselves to.

    In the late 70′s a friend of ours had a black lab that went walking down the tracks with us when the dog spotted a duck swimming on the retention pond on the plants property. The dog jumped the creek went over the berm that seperated the creek from the pond and jumped in the blue-green liquid. A few days later the dog died. This event prompted our parents to keep us away from the tracks and the creek. Unfortunatly it’s too late for a few of us. Even though we were not on the plants property the berm that seperated the plants retention pond from the creek was less than 30 ft wide

    Aside from that a good portion of our family lived together adjacent to the family home. We were also exposed to another form of carcinogen in the form of air pollution. since the plant was downhill and west of us the level of the smoke stacks were not very high above ground level. For decades the air pollution would consume the houses on top of the hill, so bad that every few years my father would complain then repaint the house because of the staining and discoloration on the white house.

    My uncle Ken was the first and tradgic lost in our family that is directly linked to this terrible criminal action that was allow to carry on for decades. Then one by one my family members started to get sick. First my mom who lived there in ringwood in the late 60′s early 70′s she has been extremly ill with Scleroderma which is linked to….you guessed it Vinyl Chloroide

    Then my uncle Bob Betts died from lung cancer and my father Carl Betts died from lung and bone cancer 2 years ago. Remember the air pollution I refered to? Also other family members from ringwood who have suffered cancers are Earl Betts, Ed Betts and Tina Betts. Then there’s me, i have pitutary than is not fuctioning and am in the process of getting brain scans at my own expense…..why? Because the legal team doesn’t believe that we have a case even though we lived practily on top of the plant! I guess if i do end up having pitutary cancer maybe when i’m gone they’ll do something! That is just family, there are neighbors who have different cancers and rare illnesses that are fighting their disease or have lost their battle. I hope that more people come forward from Ringwood and address their health problems if they are still alive!

    I hope that my aunt and cousins get justice for losing their dad! Ken was a great man, he didn’t deserve to die from a companys recklessness and carelessness. Ken Sr. would be proud of his son mike’s involvement in the walla-pa-looza cause as i’m sure his mom is as the rest of us are. Thank you all on the walla team for your hard work and dedication to educating people and raising money in the fight for cancer

    Brian Betts

    Comment by Brian Betts — September 27, 2010 @ 2:20 pm

  • Thanks Craig for the awareness. Sorry Mike about the loss of your father and to all others who lost someone.

    Comment by Salli Bartkus Renz — September 28, 2010 @ 2:52 am

  • I found this blog because of a link my cousin had replied to on Facebook. I just wanted to let you know that the message is getting out there. I pray for GOD’s blessings on these families who have been through so much.

    Comment by Melissa Tye — September 28, 2010 @ 11:46 pm