South Kinston residents concerned soil, water may be causing cancer

KINSTON, N.C. (WNCT) — WNCT is on your side in Lenoir County investigating a potential cancer cluster.

Bob Cirbus reached out to WNCT after at least 15 people in his neighborhood were diagnosed with the disease. He has lived in his home for more than 20 years. Only recently did he begin to think his surroundings may be harming his family and neighbors.

“In recent years, we’ve just had an abundance of cancer patients,” said Bob Cirbus. “More so than you would expect in a neighborhood this size.”

The community just off NC-11 in South Kinston has about 60 homes. 15 people in 16 of those homes have some form of cancer, including Cirbus’ wife Mary. He said there are probably more residents that have the disease that they’re not aware of. He says the influx has happened in the last five years alone.

“All different types of cancer too,” Cirbus said. “One has lymphoma. We had a brother-in-law die of liver cancer. Several lung cancer patients.”

Breast cancer, leukemia, prostate and stomach cancer are other forms of the disease that people have contracted. Some of those people lost their fight. Cirbus and his neighbors believe the soil may be contaminated. The property where the homes are built used to be farmland. Cirbus is unsure what was housed on the farm but in the front of the neighborhood sits a tobacco warehouse that is still called “Gold Dollar Tobacco Warehouse”. The community also operates off well water meaning the water source may be tainted as well.

“I want to know that the neighborhood is not causing cancer,” said Cirbus.

So, WNCT started searching for help. The Lenoir County Health Department along with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services directed WNCT’s Katie Harden to The Central Cancer Registry. Cirbus hopes the registry will provide some clarity.

“Hopefully somebody will come out and say, ‘No it’s not the neighborhood it’s just a freak of nature. The soil is fine, the water is fine, you’re safe to live here’,” said Cirbus. “Whatever happens from this point on is, I guess, God’s will.”

The CDC has standards and procedures on how to move forward with potential cancer clusters. Even though a number of people in a community may have the disease, that does not mean it constitutes this classification. NC DHHS must determine if there is enough of a cause to investigate further. Once that is determined, residents and surroundings will be interviewed and tested.

WNCT directed Cirbus to the officials at the Central Cancer Registry. He is now waiting for a response about the next steps. WNCT is working closely with the community to help ensure the process moves forward.

If any other residents in this community have been diagnosed with cancer, please contact WNCT’s Katie Harden at kharden@wnct.com

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