NORWOOD, Pa. (CBS) — Some Delaware County Council members are now wondering if a county Department of Health is a necessity. It’s a new development in the months-long story of elevated levels of cancer and other sicknesses in Norwood.
Some new County Council members believe if Delaware County had its own health department, there would have been better coordination and communication concerning the federal investigation in Norwood.
Parents say they never knew there was an investigation until CBS3 aired the story.
“There was nobody to notify. I mean, that’s really the problem — there was nobody in the county to notify,” Delaware County Councilmember Christine Reuther said.
Newly sworn-in Delaware County Council members say if the county had a health department of its own, perhaps red flags in Norwood would have been detected sooner.
“But if you don’t have a health department, you don’t see it until it’s at a high level and then you see the state coming in to implement something, but at that point, we’ve already gone too far,” said Delaware County Council Vice Chair Dr. Monica Taylor. “If we had a health department, we’d be able to stop it early on and provide better health outcomes for our residents.”
The Environmental Protection Agency for two years has been evaluating soil and water samples near Norwood ballfields to uncover any possible link between cancer rates and an old town dump.
In November, the agency revealed none had been detected, but promised further testing.
The parents of a deceased second-grader in Norwood told CBS3 they were unaware of a federal investigation until they saw our reporting.
These county leaders believe the absence of a local health department is problematic and use the Norwood case as an example.
“I think as a parent, for me, it would be devastating to think ‘I might have done things differently. I might not have bought this house, I might have moved, I might’ve used different water.’ And whatever you think it might be, part of what a public health department does is it gathers information and shares information,” Reuther said.
Councilmembers are now evaluating the cost to launch a health department. They’ve calculated the math to break down to roughly $2 annually per county resident.
“If you don’t have a health department, you’re really abdicating to the state. And while small government folks might think that’s OK, in a densely populated area, I don’t think it is OK,” Reuther said.