Toms River News Tank Recorder


Philadelphia Inquirer News Release:

Toms River cancer deal gives children $13 million

By Tom Avril
INQUIRER Staff Writer

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. - The companies accused of polluting the water in Toms River and the local water utility will pay at least $13.27 million to children who contracted cancer and to their siblings who suffered emotional distress, according to court records made public yesterday.

The actual total paid to the 69 families in the case is likely millions of dollars higher, but it may never be made public because the companies and the families signed a confidentiality agreement. The settlement was announced last month, but the financial terms were not disclosed at that time. The $13.27 million portion, as tallied by The Inquirer, became public because New Jersey law requires settlements with minors to be approved by a Superior Court judge. Court records do not reflect amounts paid to the estates of 15 Toms River children who died of cancer, nor do the records reflect any payments made to adult siblings or survivors - with one exception. The $13.27 million includes a $3.75 million "recurrence fund" to cover any expenses should one of the victims suffer a relapse. That fund is earmarked for 54 survivors of various kinds of childhood cancer, including leukemia and cancer of the brain or nervous system. Of the remaining $9.52 million, the children will share a net amount of about $6.83 million, after attorneys' fees and other costs. Some of the payments are structured as long-term annuities, college funds or other investments. The settlement documents in Superior Court include details of the children's symptoms, such as seizures and learning disabilities, as well as side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, such as hair loss and brittle bones. Those who survived cancer are to receive payments ranging from about $90,000 to $450,000, apparently depending on the severity of the illnesses. Siblings who suffered emotional distress are to receive smaller amounts, in most cases $5,000 apiece.

The settlement closed one chapter of the long-running saga in this middle-class Ocean County community near the Jersey Shore. Still pending are lawsuits filed by 600 additional plaintiffs who chose not to join the 69 families. The 600 are seeking class-action status and could be joined by thousands more residents exposed to Toms River's air and water, said one of their attorneys, Michael Gordon. The 69 families who settled chose not to litigate their case. They went straight to mediation, a less confrontational practice. That gave plaintiffs the certainty of a financial settlement. Had they gone to trial, they could have won more, or ended up with less or nothing at all.

Among the attorneys for the 69 families was Jan Schlichtmann, who gained national prominence for his role in a Woburn, Mass., case featured in the book and movie A Civil Action. Schlichtmann did not return a call seeking comment yesterday.

Linda Gillick, the mother of a cancer victim and an unofficial spokeswoman for the 69 families, declined to comment on the specifics of the case. "It is no one's business," she said. "The families have been through enough." Her son, Michael, contracted cancer of the nervous system as a child in Toms River but is now an adult, so the details of his settlement were not contained in the public records. The families alleged that their children got sick by drinking water polluted by a Ciba-Geigy chemical plant and a site where Union Carbide toxic wastes were dumped in 1971. The settlement was reached with Ciba Specialty Chemicals Corp. (the successor of Ciba-Geigy), Union Carbide, and United Water Resources Inc. (the local water utility).

Officials at all three declined to comment yesterday, beyond directing a reporter to their statement issued last month, in which they did not admit any wrongdoing.

Ciba-Geigy manufactured dyes and resins at a Toms River factory from 1952 to 1996, disposing of some of its waste in area lagoons. The Union Carbide waste, from the company's chemical plant in Bound Brook, Somerset County, was dumped in Toms River in 1971 by a contractor hired by the company. Last month, just days after the 69 families announced their settlement, state and federal health officials announced the results of a five-year study into the situation.

They found that Toms River girls with a high level of exposure to water contaminated by the Union Carbide wastes were more likely to contract leukemia than those with little or no exposure. The findings had a wide "confidence interval," however, meaning that researchers could not rule out chance as the reason the girls got sick.

Researchers made similar findings with respect to air emissions from the Ciba-Geigy plant.

This press release can be found in the archived news items: January 23, 2002, Philadelphia Inquirer

Readers interested in details of the historical reconstruction methodology, simulation approaches, or results for specific years and locations for the Dover Township area should refer to the full report that is available over the Internet at the ATSDR Web site at URL:

The summary report is available to view in ".pdf" format in this site: Summary report.