State taking Colonia cancer concerns “very seriously,” Gov. Murphy says
WOODBRIDGE — Governor Phil Murphy said the state is taking concerns about a possible cancer cluster stemming from Colonia High School "very seriously" in his first public comments on the situation.
The governor told reporters Monday morning that his administration is aware of anecdotes of a high rate of brain tumors among graduates and former staff at the school, as first reported by New Jersey 101.5. However, Murphy cautioned against reaching any conclusions.
"I don't know that we know enough yet to be definitive in terms of causation, et cetera, but I know for sure that the tragedy that many lives are going through have some nexus to the Colonia High School," Murphy said. "That's something that we take very seriously. Again too early to tell yet, I think, to draw any definitive conclusions."
New Jersey 101.5 first reported that Woodbridge Council approved an emergency contract with T&M Associates earlier this month to conduct air testing using radon canisters. Council's resolution also states that Cabrera Services, Inc. will conduct "an intensive survey that will encompass all 28 acres that constitute the property of Colonia High School."
John Hagerty, a spokesman for Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac, confirmed to New Jersey 101.5 Monday that they do not expect to have any preliminary test results until after April 23. The results will then be reviewed by federal agencies including the CDC and EPA, along with the state DEP and DOH.
More than 100 people connected to Colonia have reported brain tumors to CHS graduate Al Lupiano (Class of '89). Lupiano spent nearly a decade as an EPA emergency responder and another four decades in the field of environmental cleanup.
Lupiano began investigating a link between the school and brain tumors after the passing of his late sister Angela DeCillis in February. DeCillis was diagnosed with Grade 4 glioblastoma multiforme, a rare form of brain cancer, in August 2021.
Along with his sister, both Lupiano and his wife Michele were diagnosed with acoustic neuromas, another type of rare brain tumor. Lupiano found the chance of all three CHS graduates developing tumors too small to be a coincidence.
With help from Mayor McCormac, they've gained attention from national media and numerous state and federal agencies. Earlier this month, McCormac confirmed to New Jersey 101.5 that the CDC, EPA, state DEP and DOH, governor's office, and U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J 6th District are all involved.
Dr. Arif Kamal, chief patient officer for the American Cancer Society, told ABC News that Woodbridge residents have valid concerns about the high number of cases.
"It is way more than we would expect over that period of time, and certainly from a town or a high school of that size," Kamal told ABC News.