Katie Whatley was only 6 when she was diagnosed with leukemia, and it nearly took her life.
“We are fairly confident that had we not taken her to the emergency room that night, that she would have died in her sleep,” said Amanda Whatley in a YouTube video describing her daughter’s fight with cancer. Whatley’s video has now been viewed more than 50,000 times.
Three years earlier, however, Whatley’s friend, Melany Stawnyczyj, experienced the same story with her son, Roman, who was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 4.
“What a coincidence it was for both of us who were pregnant at the same time,” said Stawnyczyj. “Our husbands were stationed in Parris Island at the same time. We had lived in the same area.”
With a little online digging, Whatley and Stawnyczyj found that there were oil tanks buried below the military housing in South Carolina’s Laurel Bay, where more than 1,000 homes are located near the Marine Corps Air Station and Parris Island bases. Some of those tanks, which were used to store heating oil, had leaked. So far, at least 15 children who lived on the bases or nearby have been diagnosed with cancer.
The Marine Corps said when the tank removal process started in 2007, it was discovered that “some petroleum product had escaped.” A cleanup process was initiated and, afterward, soil testing results came back to be “within acceptable limits” of benzene, a carcinogen found in petroleum that has been linked to blood diseases and cancers such as Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), lymphomas and aplastic anemia. The Marine Corps is continuing an ongoing investigation into the possibility that the contamination was worse than initially thought.
“Our goal is to remain as transparent as possible throughout the process,” said the Marine Corps in response to the leukemia link.
Stawnyczyj was unapologetic for herself and Whatley going public with the alleged link between the benzene contamination and their childrens’ cancer. “I could not in good conscience stand back knowing that other children are being diagnosed,” Stawnyczyj said. “Our husbands have sacrificed years of their life serving our country. At the minimum they should feel safe to leave their families in homes that are safe.”
Source: CBS News