Update: The city of Ripon, the district and Sprint held their own town hall about the cell tower on Thursday. Fifteen speakers addressed the crowd, including Assemblyman Heath Flora, R-Ripon. Flora confirmed Sprint shut down their cell phone tower at Weston Elementary School and the company was already relocating it.
“I am a husband and a father with two little girls who live in this town,” Flora said. “We all deserve answers to the questions we have, and my office will work hard to help deliver answers to the questions brought to us tonight.”
RIPON — After almost a year of resting in the fact that her son was cancer free, Monica Ferrulli’s was back to helping her son, Mason, battle a brain tumor.
“It’s horrible,” Ferrulli said. “It’s really rough to watch him go through this and be so upset and worried, and not knowing what his future holds. It’s really hard to watch.”
A community meeting held Wednesday was part of Ferrulli’s effort to go beyond watching and instead take decisive action to find out why so many people across Ripon have cancer, especially children.
She learned of Mason’s newest diagnosis last week. It’s the third time he’s had to confront cancer in two years.
His former schoolmate at Weston Elementary, Kyle Prime, is one of eight students and teachers at the school who have been diagnosed with cancer.
The children’s parents believe it’s all tied to a Sprint cell phone tower on campus.
On Wednesday, the company reiterated, “Three independent tests were conducted and the results showed the site to be fully compliant and operating about 100 times below federal limits.”
Though the Ferrullises and the Primes started fighting for the removal of the tower two years ago over radiation concerns, they only got assurances that it would be taken down 10 days ago. That came two months after partnering with lawyers from The Cochran Firm.
“Our concern is that there are some people who did see it coming and that could have seen it coming and they didn’t tell us anything about it,” said attorney Brian Dunn speaking about environmental toxins.
Those lawyers came to Ripon trying to educate the community about many different forms of contamination their research shows is affecting the city, some they claim have been leaking into area groundwater for decades.
“There was a Nestle plant that was operating in this area that was manufacturing coffee and we know that they were using cancer-causing chemicals,” said Marcelis Morris, attorney for The Cochran Firm.
It’s a culture of contamination they say can’t be ignored.
“After reviewing thousands of pages of documents, I can say there’s nothing that has made me less concerned,” Morris said. “We need to really dig in and find out what is causing all of this cancer to proliferate in the city of Ripon. We want to save lives. We want to prevent this from happening.”
Morris and the other lawyers from The Cochran Firm say when adjusting for size, cancer rates in the small town of Ripon are substantially higher than the California average. The latest figures the American Cancer Society has posted for the Golden State show about 411 people out of 100,000 get diagnosed with the disease per year.
FOX40 reached out to Nestle for comment and received the following statement Thursday from communications manager Emily Dimiero:
“For more than 30 years, Nestlé has worked with the City of Ripon and under the direction of the Regional Water Quality Control Board (the Water Board) to monitor the safety of the drinking water supply and take action to protect the health of the people in Ripon. Nestlé has made and continues to make every effort to remediate TCE, which was associated decades ago with decaffeinated coffee production at its long-closed facility. In partnership with the City and other experts in water management, we have implemented a variety of coordinated cleanup and water protection measures to significantly reduce the mass of chemicals of concern and limit the spread of impacted groundwater. We are constantly working together to ensure the levels of TCE and related compounds in the municipal drinking water supply do not exceed safe consumption levels. Our collective TCE cleanup efforts have had a positive impact, but we have more work to do. We are dedicated to continuing our work with the City and the Water Board to ensure the safety of the water supply.”
Responding for the superintendent of the Ripon Unified School district, Chief Operations Officer Frank Jerome sent this statement to FOX40:
“We take parental concerns seriously and want our families to feel comfortable in their school. As part of the relocation process, Sprint has turned off the cell tower at Weston Elementary School and is moving forward with leasing, permitting and deploying a new site.”