What's Behind this Mystery Cancer Cluster?

(CBS) Forty-six year old Sandy Wierschke, a once energetic, healthy woman with a career, husband and a child, is dying from brain cancer.

"I don't know what the future holds for me anymore," she said. "I am just living three months to three months and hoping that I can make it another three months."

That's how her neighbor Bryan Freund is living, too. He also has brain cancer. Neighbors on either side of his home have also developed brain cancer.

"And at that point between us and the Branhams and the Weisenbergers, we just knew that something was far out of the ordinary," Freund said. "You live MRI to MRI."

And there are more cases. More than a dozen cases.

"I am John Smith," said another patient. "I am on my second brain tumor."
There, in a community of about 1,000 people, 14 residents have developed brain cancer. Nationally the rate is roughly seven out of 100,000.

"These people who lived in McCollum Lake did not know what was going on just a mile or so away. They didn't know. They didn't know until people were found to have brain cancer in these really striking numbers," Freiwald said.


Attorney Aaron Freiwald says "absolutely not." He represents the McCollum Lake Village residents in their lawsuits against multi-billion dollar chemical company Rohm and Haas. Rohm and Hass has had a plant there since 1963. It makes specialty chemicals that are used in a variety of industries - from plastics to pesticides. It has 140 facilities in 27 countries.

The company admits that for 20 years ending in 1979, it dumped toxic chemical waste in an eight-acre pit on its property. The goundwater beneath the plant is polluted with gallons of chemicals - some are known human carcinogens. In May, the county tested only 14 of the water wells around McCullom Lake Village and found no contamination.

But local residents say no testing was done during the time Rohm and Haas was dumping chemicals.

"They knew that there were chemicals in there - that they were dangerous," Freiwald said.