Earlier this month, Scene brought you the story of IMG’s plans to build a luxury sports resort community on a 1,100-acre plot of land that once housed the Diamond Alkali plant in Painesville Township [“Badlands
,” August 1].
Alas, there was one small problem: For years, people next to the land have been dying in hordes from cancer, thought to be caused by the very toxic chemicals Diamond Alkali once dumped on the property. The developer’s clean-up plan basically consisted of loading a pile of dirt on the problem.
Though the Ohio EPA claimed there was no hazard in building the resort there, former residents and employees were aghast by the decision. Now another whistleblower, former Diamond Alkali field engineer Jim Burgoon, is raising red flags. “This is a much worse situation that anyone recognizes,” he says.
Burgoon, a pilot, used to fly over the Alkali site, where he saw green liquid – chromium residue – seeping into the river. “This is some of the most worst toxic sludges you could ever find,” he says. Twelve years ago, he first approached EPA with this information. They nodded their heads and did nothing, as far as he could tell.
In the 1970s, Burgoon was charged with finding a new location for a Diamond Alkali chrome plant. He says CEO Ray Evans gave him one stipulation. “They wanted it anywhere but Painesville,” Burgoon says. The CEO “knew what a cancer factory he had there.”
Burgoon doesn’t understand why the new project is being allowed to go forward.
“Why can’t the EPA get in there and find out how bad it is?” he asks. “How could anyone build something over a mess like that? I don’t like to think of the risk people are going to face.” – Rebecca Meiser