Second Fallon Leukemia Lawsuit Filed

Fallon Cancer Cluster
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A second lawsuit has been filed against the owners of a jet fuel pipeline and others, alleging pollution caused the Fallon leukemia cluster.

Stephanie Sands died two years ago at the age of 21. Her family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Washoe District Court in Reno last week.

In June, the family of 10-year-old Adam Jernee filed a similar suit naming the same defendants. The youngster died of leukemia in 2001.

The suits seek actual and punitive damages of more than $10,000. The amount of such awards would be determined by a jury if the cases get to trial.

Floyd Sands, Stephanie's father, said family members are suing "not for money, but for truth."

He told the Reno Gazette-Journal he doesn't believe federal and state health and environmental investigators tried hard enough to find the cause of the cancer cluster.

"Stephanie's son, Ewan, lives with the most devastating loss that a child can suffer," Sands said. "He deserves more than slick public relations, half-truths and lies.

"He deserves to know the truth, and he will know it."

Defendants named in the suits include Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, the owner of the jet fuel pipeline that runs through Fallon; Kennametal, a company that manufactures tungsten carbide in a kiln north of Fallon and also operates a manufacturing plant in town; other firms associated with the pipeline, including contractors and owners of rights of way; and the governments of Fallon and Churchill County.

Larry Pierce, spokesman for Kinder Morgan in Houston, said the company hasn't been served with either lawsuit.

"All we can say is we fully cooperated with the state and federal agencies investigating the pipeline,"Pierce said."Those agencies concluded last year that the pipeline does not pose a health hazard. They wrote off the pipeline as a cause of the leukemia cases."

Since 1997, 16 children with ties to Fallon have developed leukemia, and three of those have died.

Both lawsuits allege that jet fuel, by itself or in conjunction with another pollutant, caused leukemia in children. The suit also alleges that the 46-year-old jet fuel pipeline that runs from Sparks to the Fallon Naval Air Station leaked and that the owners kept those leaks secret.

Kinder Morgan has said there are no records of leaks in the Sparks-Fallon line and that the line has been well-maintained.

The suits allege that local officials knew or should have known about contamination in Fallon and lied to prevent the public from finding out about the unsafe conditions that led to the cluster.

State and federal officials have absolved local industries of any connection with the cancer epidemic, but critics maintain the investigations were incomplete and misleading.