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40 years after TCE water contamination: City is committed to providing clean water

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Posted at 6:37 AM, Mar 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-31 09:37:38-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Sheila Allen and her mom Patricia McNeely are one of many families who lived on the Southside while the water was being contaminated by TCE.

To this day, they say they believe the source of their health issues is drinking the contaminated water, but they didn’t file in the lawsuits hundreds of their neighbors did.

Sheila said she wishes she filed because after years of medical issues she just wants someone to believe her.

40 years after TCE water contamination: Cleanup efforts post contamination

“Just to have it on record because nobody believes me. Nobody believes us now," said Allen. “I keep telling them, ‘hey, I drank this water there is something wrong.' I’m suffering and they won’t listen to me.”

Allen said she has been tested for lupus, an autoimmune disease, but to this day can't pinpoint an exact health condition.

Drinking the chemical can lead to impacts on the immune system, according to the EPA.

However, her mom says filing in the lawsuit wouldn’t have made a difference.

“It wasn’t about the money and stuff. I kept putting two and two together— what is happening,” said McNeely.

40 years after TCE water contamination: Victims still suffer

Years after drinking the contaminated water, she said she battled cervical cancer. A condition that is a known result of exposure.

Looking back on it all decades later, all they want is accountability.

KGUN 9 reached out to Mayor Regina Romero to see what the city is doing today to make sure this never happens again.

"Previous mayors to me, myself and other councils have been diligent about disclosing and transferring information to the community," explained Romero.

Make no mistake, the city was not in charge of the water Southside residents were getting at the time of the contamination.

But Mayor Romero sympathizes with the families today.

"Many families saw firsthand, to this day, their loved ones fall with cancer. We have cancer clusters in the south side of our city. And so, you know, it's not about pointing blame, even though we want to do what's right, and we did find who exactly was causing this contamination in our water," she said.

After the contamination was discovered Tucson Water took over operations. Since then, Mayor Romero said the city has invested millions into making sure the water is clean.

She added it's the city's responsibility to deliver clean water.

"Since TCE, we have been on top of this issue," she said.