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Erin Brockovich interested in fight to clean up Middleville Tannery dump

By GARY LIBERATORE

NORWAY, N.Y. (WKTV) - We first brought you the story of a Herkimer County woman trying to get the government to clean up an old toxic waste dump site in the Town of Norway a week ago.

Now that woman, Kim Labombard of Norway, has the attention of Erin Brockovich, the woman made famous for getting a similar site cleaned up in California.

A movie was actually made about Brockovich's fight to get the site cleaned up. That movie was called 'Erin Brockovich'.

An attorney from the Erin Brockovich Law Firm called Labombard on Thursday. Labombard says the attorney was very interested in the case, and even watched her story with NEWSChannel 2 from September 14 via the web. She says the attorney wanted more details regarding the case, and in particular the names and numbers of those who live near the dumpsite who have been stricken with cancer.

Labombard was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003.

Since then, she says she has found at least 20 other people who have cancer, or who have died from cancer who live within a few mile radius of the old Middleville Tannery Dump Site which sits high atop the Town of Norway.

The Middleville Tannery dumped old leather hides and pure chromium used to tan hides on that site up until the 1960's.

Much of that solid waste is still there, and has never been cleaned up.

Kim says she sent an email to Erin Brockovich's firm after our story with her aired here on News Channel 2 last Friday, and says Brockovich's office called on Thursday.

"I couldn't believe it," Labombard said. "They had called us yesterday and said they wanted to hear a little bit more about our case, and they wanted us to send more information out to them to look everything over. They said if we can find more people, other than the people that I know that have cancer, that would be a great help to them as well."

According to a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Spokesperson out of Watertown, Stephen Litwhiler says a study done by the EPA on the Middleville Tannery Dump Site back in 2004, shows the site does not qualify it as a hazardous waste site.

He says the waste still sits there.

This, despite the finding in that study that there was chromium in the samples taken, on average 400 times higher than normal.

Litwhiler says the study showed the chromium is in the soil and is not moving, and is not a risk to get into the surface water.

We are awaiting a call back from the attorney with Erin Brockovich's office out in California to learn more about their interest in the case.

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