Town of Huntersville plans to test soil in search for cause of rare eye cancer

Published: Jun. 14, 2019 at 7:03 PM EDT
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HUNTERSVILLE N.C. (WBTV) - The committee tasked with studying the high number of cases of rare eye cancer in the Huntersville area met Friday morning to update the community on what is happening in that process.

It was announced that, pending approval, a company will test soil at four different public locations to look for contaminants or any similarities. Crews will take 3 samples, anywhere from 1-3 feet deep, from Hopewell High School, Stevens Road Nature Preserve, North Mecklenburg Park, and the area around Huntersville Station 3.

“We sort of laid out five things to do and we are at the fifth thing right now which is try and do some sort of environmental testing," said Huntersville Mayor John Aneralla.

Over the past several years, tests of patients’ lifestyle history and living locations have been looked at. There have also been tests done of patients tumor tissue. Those results should be coming in within the next several months.

There have been nearly two dozen cases of Ocular Melonoma reported in the area with no known cause or cure.

“I have three friends now that have ocular melanoma,” Elizabeth Seymour said. Seymour lives in Huntersville. “I have three children and want to be able to put them to bed and not worry about what am I exposing them to.”

“There is no known causative association with an environmental toxin,” said Dr. Michael Brennan who is a retired eye doctor that is coordinating a study to try and learn more.

The company that would be doing the soil testing says they will be testing for nearly 200 compounds or contaminants, however, with no none association, it is difficult to pinpoint if a cause can be determined.

Kenny and Sue Colbert lost their daughter Kenan to the cancer 5 years ago. Ever since then, they have been active supporters and leaders in the journey to get answers.

“We need to enlist a team of expert environmentalists to help us out. This is bigger than the town of Huntersville,” said Kenan’s father, Kenny. “We need to look at other things like dirty electricity, electromagnetic fields. Those things need to be investigated as well and that is outside their realm of expertise.”

Kenny Colbert admits that this process will continue to take money and time.

“We need help at the state and federal level,” said Colbert. “We need to go down that list and sooner than later we are going to hit on the right combination.”

For Sue Colbert, she is happy that soil will be tested, but she also offered another area that needs to be looked at.

“Come on folks, help us. Lets find out if there is coal ash. You don’t know where to start, that is a place to start. Is there coal ash at Hopewell High School," said Sue Colbert

Mayor Aneralla stressed that the town commission can only do so much when you are looking at a potential health risk of this size.

“Help is going to come from the county or the state or the federal level. Right now, we are hoping for a $100,000 grant from the state level,” said Mayor Aneralla.

The committee and neighbors want to look at partnering with universities and working more with state agencies to get more funding and momentum.

“I think it would be great to partner with the Universities that have more resources and experts in environmental causes,” said Seymour.

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