WILMINGTON, MA — The Wilmington Board of Selectmen received a brief status update on the long awaited Wilmington Childhood Cancer Study at their meeting on Monday night.
Jana Ferguson, Director of the Bureau of Environmental Health for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), has advised Town Manager Jeff Hull that she “considers completion of the study a priority.” Ferguson said that Alicia Fraser, Assistant Director of the bureau’s Environmental Epidemiology Program is “dedicated exclusively to this study.”
According to Hull’s summary of his communication with Ferguson, the report is expected to be released before the end of 2019.
“The expectation, at present, assuming no unforeseen circumstances, is to have the work peer reviewed in July 2019,” wrote Hull in a memo to Selectmen. “The agency will likely need to respond to peer review comments. Following the internal review, the report and conclusions are expected to be released for public review prior to the end of calendar year 2019. Director Ferguson noted that there will be a public outreach component and that she will consult with the Town on a draft outreach plan prior to making any public announcements.”
During “Public Comments,” local environmental activist Suzanne Sullivan — who serves a citizen liaison to DPH on this matter — was justifiably skeptical upon hearing this news.
“We’ve been told multiple times over the years that the cancer study is going into peer review. It’s been in peer review probably four times now. We’ve been blown off every time…,” said Sullivan. “We still don’t have the answers. It’s been 20 years. I hear that it’s a priority, but we’ve been told that multiple times before.”
Sullivan encouraged the town to place some pressure on the DPH to finally complete and release the report.
“Pressure is a good thing. Maybe they will actually do something. I think they feel like everyone is going to forget about it and go away,” added Sullivan. “I’m going to try to find ways to apply pressure myself, and so are some other citizens. It’s really important to have a unified front of these issues. The citizens, town boards, elected officials, and town employees should all be on the same page on this issue and on Olin. [The citizens] want to work with the board on all fronts.”
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