PLANT CITY – Shannon Franco was in tears, but they were tears of joy.
“I’m so happy, because now we’ll finally get some answers,” she said.
She was referring to an announcement from California- based Masry & Vititoe, where the famed environmental crusader Erin Brockovich is head of research, that the law firm is going forward with a case against Coronet Industries.
Attorney Ed Masry and Brockovich will arrive soon in the Tampa Bay area and will share their findings with residents in a town-hall meeting. To date, the firm has between 50 and 100 plaintiffs wanting to sign, Masry said, adding that each plaintiff will be treated individually.
“There appears to be substantial injury that may have been caused by toxic compounds associated with Coronet,” Masry said. “Arsenic, chromium, cadmium, lead, fluoride and radiation – they are all probable cancer causing substances.”
“We don’t want to get to town and not be able to answer residents’ questions. We’ll have a pretty good idea of what’s going on when we get to Coronet in a week or two,” he said.
Coronet’s attorney, David Weinstein of Tampa, said he will comment after he sees the complaint, which hasn’t been filed yet.
Franco’s son, Nicholas, has delayed speech problems that she says may be connected to water pollution from Coronet.
She isn’t alone.
About 700 residents attended a public meeting last month, many of them voicing concerns including rampant cancer and learning disabilities among those who live near the plant. Most said they suspected their illnesses might be attributed to pollution in the area.
Health and environmental officials have embarked upon an intensive, yearlong study to determine whether those concerns are valid. Officials are testing for pollutants in private wells, taking urine samples from residents and studying possible sources of air pollution. They also are looking at old landfills as a possible source of contamination, although no link between health problems and pollution in the area has been proved.
The Francos live about a mile from the plant. Shannon Franco drank water from the well while pregnant and mixed her son’s formula with it. Suspicious that Nicholas’ problems may be related to the water he’s been drinking, the family began drinking bottled water and bathing him at a relative’s house about 45 days ago.
Nicholas is about to turn 3.
Since they switched to bottled water, “he has increased his vocabulary by 70 words,” she said. “His speech therapist said that is amazing.”
* Reporter Deborah Alberto can be reached at (813) 754-3765.