Why is there a cluster of people with Tourette Syndrome in a small New York town? Since October, nearly two dozen people in Le Roy, mostly teen girls, have begun experiencing uncontrollable tics, seizures and outbursts, ABC News reported in February.
Famous environmental activist Erin Brockovich got involved and pointed to a toxic spill in the area 41 years ago. She theorized that a toxic plume from the spill had flowed toward Le Roy. But her theory turned out to be wrong because the plume had actually traveled in the opposite direction.
A New York Times Magazine article then suggested that the reason the girls developed the twitches was because they had bad relationships with their biological fathers.
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A new investigation by the Democrat and Chronicle still can't pinpoint a cause to the symptoms, but it does have new information about that 41-year-old toxic spill: it was never cleaned up properly.
In 1970, a train derailed near Le Roy. Two tank cars erupted, sending 35,000 gallons of a toxic chemical called trichloroethene, or TCE, into the ground.
TCE is known to cause cancer, and the Environmental Protection Agency also says that it can affect the central nervous system.
But back then, officials didn't know that TCE was hazardous. They cleaned up the spilled cyanide but left the TCE. In the 41 years since the accident, not a single drop of those 35,000 gallons of TCE has been cleaned up, the Democrat and Chronicle reported Sunday.
Within several days of the spill, the local water tasted foul. “I’d worked with the stuff. The minute I smelled it I knew what it was,” a worker who had lived near the derailment site told the Chronicle. After the twitching teens in Le Roy caused the toxic spill to receive media attention, the EPA announced that it would finally clean up the 41-year-old mess, according to ABC. But the Democrat and Chronicle reported Sunday that the EPA still hasn't established a timetable for doing so.