A group of current and former residents on Watertown's north side claims to have uncovered evidence of manipulation in the way test data about pollution in their homes and schools was presented.
The group claims that in reality, up to three times the acceptable level of trichloroethylene - or TCE, as it's known - was found in homes and schools.
TCE has been linked to cancer and other ailments.
TCE was one of the chemicals the former owner of New York Airbrake acknowledged in the 1980s had been used, and dumped, for years. The homes and schools in question are in the area around the Airbrake site.
"I was kind of skeptical of all this when we started - 'Let's see what we find,'" said James Barker, one of the group's leaders, in an interview Saturday. "As we kept digging and digging, you start seeing all these anomalies."
What the group claims to have uncovered is a discrepancy between what the state Department of Health reported to homeowners after testing in 2007-2008, and what the tests actually showed.
The Department of Health told homeowners that the quality of the air in their homes was normal, not contaminated.
But working from what the group describes as the "raw data," obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, the group believes columns of test numbers are switched, and that the accurate numbers show up to three times acceptable levels of TCE.
Asked if he believes the data was manipulated, Barker said "That's a strong word," but the apparent switch "kind of points to it was done knowingly."
No one from the state Department of Environmental Conservation or Department of Health could be reached Saturday for comment. A person whom answered the phone at Centek Laboratories, Syracuse, which did the testing, said the group is "barking up the wrong tree."
"These people have no idea what they're talking about," said the man, who would not give his name.
The group has retained a law firm, and is expected to file a lawsuit.
Friday, July 31, 2015, Watertown, NY
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