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A WGVU initiative in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation using on-air programs and community events to explore issues of inclusion and equity.

Family in contaminated site evacuated by EPA

Mariano Avila

[Update: The Kent County Health Department says they have found an agency able to offer temporary accommodations for the Gill family, and that more information will be made available this afternoon.]

Robert Gill was at work when he got a notice from the Environmental Protection Agency saying that his house was contaminated with tetrachloroethylene, a toxic liquid that turns to gas when it hits the air. That was Friday, and that very afternoon he had to move his family out of their residence on Hall Street.

“It was all of a sudden, they told us to grab a few things and go and we had no direction. Red Cross stepped up and gave us a voucher to take care of us for a few days, and some food. But as far as that, we’re pretty much out here and lost with no information.”

Gill, who lives with his sister as she battles cancer, as well as his brother-in-law, niece and her two children, says that as of now, they’re pretty much homeless.

The family* was told they had to leave their residence when the EPA discovered the contamination extended well beyond the original site of a dry cleaner believed to be the source of the toxic flow.

Betsy Nightingale, an on-scene coordinator for the Environmental Protection Agency, says it will be weeks before they even know if it's safe to move back into.

“So the 13th is the…

-Drilling the sub-slab holes, the following week, pulling the sub-slab samples. And then dealing with all that data, understanding if we have problems, and then collecting….”

Point is, it will be around June 24 before results come back—if everything goes well. Even then there’s no timeline for moving people back in. Steve Kelso, marketing and communications manager at the Kent County Health Department, says it’s not just the challenge of finding long-term arrangements for the families evacuated so far.   

“Here’s the thing, and pardon the pun, but it’s a fairly fluid situation. We don’t really know what’s going to occur once EPA goes in and start testing other homes.”

The EPA will test each home until they determine what the affected area is and then more once they’ve installed countermeasures.

If you want to give to the Gill’s Go Fund Me campaign click on the link below


*Editor's note: Original story stated that 28 residents were diplaced. The actual number is six. The higher number comes from those the EPA asked for bloodwork to check toxicity levels.

Mariano Avila is WGVU's inclusion reporter. He has made a career of bringing voices from the margins to those who need to hear them. Over the course of his career, Mariano has written for major papers in English and Spanish, published in magazines, worked in broadcast, and produced short films, commercials, and nonprofit campaigns. He also briefly served at a foreign consulate, organized for international human rights efforts and has done considerable work connecting marginalized people to religious, educational, and nonprofit institutions through the power of story.
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