- Real Estate
- Contact Us
- Jackson Community
- Madison Community
- Place an Ad
- Send a Letter
- List your Business
- Print and Internet
- Wedding Announcement
- Birth Announcement
- Church News
Jarrett McElheney (L) was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia at the age of 4. He has had a remarkable recovery from that illness. And at 10, he is an honor student and athlete. But his mother, Jill, (R) remains focused on what might have made him sick. And she continues to push local governments to look at how pollution can affect children’s health. She has organized a Tuesday meeting in Madison County, which will focus on Colonial Pipeline’s petroleum spills in the Colbert Grove Church Road area and the avenues of help available to neighboring residents.
‘Our environment and our children’
Local mother of leukemia victim pushes for awareness
of environmental risks to kids
Tuesday meeting in Madison Co. to focus on Colonial Pipeline spills, concerns of neighboring residents
After their son was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 4, Jill McElheney and her husband, Jeff, had their well tested in Athens, soon discovering that the water they’d given their children was laced with benzene and other cancer-causing toxins from a nearby business.
The couple and their five children now live in Winterville. Their son has since had a remarkable remission from acute lymphocytic leukemia. And at 10, Jarrett is an athlete and honor student.
But Jill McElheney’s life was forever altered by the ordeal. And she knew she had to do something.
“I thought, ‘if I sue, and I get a check, but am silenced about what we went through, then what good is it? What good is it going to do to get that check?’” said McElheney.
So McElheney pursued another option: create an organization aimed at improving the environment so that children can be safer and healthier.
She and her husband formed “Micah’s Mission,” named after Jarrett’s middle name, Micah. It’s also an acronym for “Ministry to Improve Childhood and Adolescent Health.” And she helped organize the Northeast Georgia Children’s Environmental Health Coalition.
“We decided to create a Christian ministry to help families understand how the environment affects children’s health,” said McElheney about Micah’s Mission.
McElheney said she’s disturbed by the government’s lack of interest in protecting children from toxins put in the environment by corporations, even when contamination problems are obvious.
She said that government too often bends to meet corporate interests instead of looking out for citizens who could be adversely affected by the business.
“We learned the hard way to look for pathways of exposure through the air, water and soil,” said McElheney. “With my own experience of corporate abuse of the environment next to our home, I learned that the EPD and the EPA knew about it; they knew of the discharge. But we were just sort of lost in the shuffle.”
McElheney said people are frequently scared off by contamination issues because of the complicated science that can accompany such discussions, the “parts-per-billion” data that leads to headaches and little piece of mind. But she said she doesn’t feel the complexity of contamination issues should leave families powerless in combatting pollution near their homes.
And she said people are generally unaware of all the help that is available to them.
“There are so many resources available for residents as far as health issues,” said McElheney.
With public education in mind, McElheney has taken an interest in Madison County’s long-standing contamination ordeal in the Colbert Grove Church Road area.
A series of spills by Colonial Pipeline, a major petroleum transport company which has a line running through the county, led to benzene contamination in residential wells in the Colbert Grove area.
The company didn’t report those spills to neighboring property owners until some 15 years after the last documented spill in 1979, when benzene contamination was discovered in the mid 1990s in a residential well near Colonial’s booster station.
Faced with a lawsuit from several property owners, the company began buying homes from those affected by the contamination.
Meanwhile, reports of sickness, including a leukemia death several hundred yards from the company’s booster station, raised the alarm of many. But a link between the contamination and illness has not been scientifically established.
McElheney said the mother of that leukemia victim is now her neighbor in Winterville. She said she feels a need to help her and others like her.
“The mother of the boy who died was at my husband’s place of business buying a concrete angel for his grave; and now she’s my neighbor in Winterville,” said McElheney. “I told my husband, ‘that’s what happened to us.’”
For the rest of the story see this weeks Madison County Journal.
To go to
in Northeast Georgia