Cancer cluster - Linda Longenecker

Linda Longenecker holds a photo of her son Rodney Roberson Jr., who died of cancer. Her father, Paul Roberson, also died of cancer. The family used to live on Rocky Springs Road near Fort Detrick.

Cancer took Linda Longenecker’s son and her father. It took Bruce Linton’s wife. And both of Valiree Stine’s parents.

They all lived near Fort Detrick.

Despite two state investigations that didn’t find a cancer cluster, years of failed lawsuits and denied claims, families — the Lintons, the Longeneckers, the Stines and many more — can’t shake the feeling that there’s more to the story.

More than 5,600 people have signed a petition that asks Maryland’s U.S. senators to take another look at a possible cancer cluster near Fort Detrick.

The petition was created about a month ago by Randy White, who leads the Kristen Renee Foundation. In the petition, White asks U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning and the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), to “clean the chemical repositories at Fort Detrick and compensate the affected.”

White’s daughter, Frederick resident Kristen Renee White Hernandez, died of brain cancer at age 30 in 2008.

After her death — which her family suspects is tied to contamination from Fort Detrick — her family formed the foundation in her memory.

For years, the foundation has led rallies, sent out robo-calls, organized marches, pushed for legislation and filed lawsuits to draw attention to cancer cases near Fort Detrick. Some people who signed the most recent petition haven’t been involved in any of that.

“My parents bought a house in Amber Meadows in 1976,” Valiree Stine said. “My aunt also bought a house in Amber Meadows. My cousin bought a house in Amber Meadows. My dad died from cancer, my mom died from cancer, my aunt died from cancer.”

Stine lives in Hagerstown and works at a county office near Area B.

The fenced-in Area B is a Fort Detrick property where, decades ago, the Army dumped sludge from its former decontamination plants, ashes from its incinerators, potentially radioactive sludge from a sewage disposal plant, drums of the industrial solvent trichloroethylene, chemical materials, biological materials and herbicides.

Some in the Frederick community believe that many cancer cases in the residential neighborhoods around Fort Detrick, such as Amber Meadows, were caused by that contamination.

“There’s just too many people for there not to be something, you know?” Stine said. “There’s too many things that were probably buried.”

Stine lived in the Frederick area starting when she was 12 years old, but moved out before she started paying attention to the growing concerns of contamination in her neighborhood.

“If it were today that I lived in Frederick and I knew about it, I think that I would move ... outside of Fort Detrick,” Stine said.

Stine signed the petition, and left a comment saying that she believes there is a cancer cluster near Fort Detrick.

In 2011 and 2014, the state health department reported that it was unable to confirm a cancer cluster near Fort Detrick.

According to Clifford Mitchell, director of the Environmental Health Bureau at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the rate of cancer in the Fort Detrick area is about the same as the rate in the county and the state.

Mitchell said in 2014 that it was possible there is or was a cancer cluster, but it’s also possible that the state will never be able to verify that.

Bruce Linton’s wife died after fighting ovarian cancer for four years. Linton was diagnosed with cancer in 2009.

They lived in Clover Hill, another Frederick neighborhood near Fort Detrick.

“It was one of those things where you thought that there could be a correlation, but there was really no way of knowing,” Linton said.

From 1992 to 2011, the Maryland Cancer Registry has 2,247 recorded cancer cases from the Fort Detrick area.

“The data source is an accurate source, but it does not capture 100 percent of persons who lived in the area,” Frederick County Health Department Health Officer Dr. Barbara Brookmyer wrote in an email.

People who might not be in the registry include those who were diagnosed with cancer after moving out of the area; those who were diagnosed with cancer before 1992; and those living outside a certain radius around Fort Detrick.

In a 2012 analysis, the National Research Council acknowledged that there’s no way to tell if there is a cancer cluster because of the lack of historical data.

“Conducting a retrospective study with as few research methodology biases as possible is challenging when the question posed has many unknowns,” Brookmyer said.

Trying to find connections between Fort Detrick, environmental contamination and local cancer cases has been an “ongoing struggle” for the Kristen Renee Foundation and its fellow activists, Linton acknowledged.

He also signed the foundation’s petition. Linton isn’t an activist, but he wants some answers.

“I’d like something definitive, which I’ve been hoping for for some time,” Linton said.

Long before the Kristen Renee Foundation started, the Army Corps of Engineers has been investigating the extent of the environmental contamination, digging wells on and around Fort Detrick to take samples of groundwater.

The Army Corps of Engineers reports back to the community in public meetings held on a quarterly basis. Residents have complained that the decades-long investigation has yielded little in the way of solutions.

The Corps has long-range projections for the cleanup, which may be part of a feasibility report this year or next year, but there have not been any targeted cleanup plans for a particular area of the post or the surrounding neighborhood.

Meanwhile, Fort Detrick has been the target of multiple lawsuits from the Kristen Renee Foundation, a developer and local residents who believe the Army has and is causing harm to the fort’s adjacent properties and the people who live on them.

Last year, the Army denied more than 100 claims from people who argued they or their families had health problems stemming from environmental contamination near Area B.

Linda Longenecker, a Woodsboro resident, said she wants environmental testing to continue, but not when it’s funded by the federal government.

“I just don’t trust when the government wants to perform their own testing, when we the people think they were the problem to start with,” she said.

Longenecker signed the petition. Her family lived in the Rocky Springs Road area, near Fort Detrick, for decades. Her father was an animal caretaker who worked on post.

“I can remember, practically all my life, stories about Fort Detrick,” she said.

Her son and her father both died of cancer.

Her son Rodney Roberson Jr. was diagnosed with leukemia at age 32 and went through five rounds of aggressive chemotherapy.

Though a bone marrow transplant cleared the cancer from his body, his thinned blood triggered a brain aneurysm days later.

Longenecker signed the papers for her son to be taken off life support. He died in 2004, nine months after his initial diagnosis.

“There’s always going to be that doubt,” Longenecker said. “Was it something connected to Detrick?”

Longenecker is hoping the petition will bring awareness to the cancer rate near Fort Detrick and some closure for her family after all of these years.

“It’s a shame that it’s gone this long. [The petition] can’t bring people back, but it sure may save a few if we can push forward with it,” Longenecker said. “And if Detrick is to blame, shame on you. But make it right.”

Follow Sylvia Carignan on Twitter: @SylviaCarignan.

(19) comments


We lived a few houses down from Rodney on Rocky Springs Rd. when I was younger and my father died of cancer as well.


My Mom died 3 years ago from Ovarian cancer. Cancer had not touched us till Mom got it. My parents lived and still do live in Shookstown.


Somebody should check the are for electromagnetic radiation exceeding the FCC safe limit from these 3 large antennas inside Ft. Detrick
Radar/Call Sign Fort Detrick
Model AN/ FSC-78( V) x 3
Max Pulsed Power (Watts) 10,000
Gain (dBi) 84
EIRP 2,511,886,431,510 Watts (7.5 Terrawatts TOTAL!!)
Frequency (MHz) 8,200
Max Power Density (W/m2) @ 10 km 1,998.90
Latitude 39.4422
Longitude -77.41461
FIPS 24021
County Frederick
State MD

During ducting events, radiation reaching ground can exceed FCC safe guideline of 10 watts/sq. meter.
"In this review we discuss alarming epidemiological and experimental data on possible carcinogenic effects of long term exposure to low intensity microwave (MW) radiation..."


I have always wondered about this. We moved to Carroll Park Manor backing up to Detrick in 2011. By the end of the year I had a brain tumor. The following year, cancer, and then another brain tumor. We moved out of state 2 years ago. Nothing new since then.


MM, we are so sorry to hear of your circumstances. There have been 67 similar cases so far reported to us. Several are from Carroll Park Manor. You're welcome to share with us by contacting us through the Foundation's website.


I'm one of those people who was diagnosed with cancer after moving from Lake Coventry. I lived there for 12 years wondering if I was exposed to the contamination from a few blocks away.


Mlb, there are other cases from others who have lived in Lake Coventry as well as yours, Kristen's and Debbie's. We would welcome more details if you're willing. Thanks.


Did anyone ever document/add in all of the cancer deaths of the civilian employees who worked at Detrick? I know of a couple of people who worked there for years and died of lung cancer who never smoked a day in their lives. They didn't live close to Detrick, so wouldn't be counted if the research was done just on the basis of household proximity.


Regularly, the Kristen Renee Foundation is contacted with civilians from Fort Detrick. I agree with you about those who have or had never smoked, yet developed lung cancer. That's not easily refuted. Please encourage those you know to contact KRF and I will be happy to contact them myself. Thanks. Susan


Don't drink the water in Frederick County, any of it. Buy purified bottled water in number 1 plastics.


Pls. post where the petition is located so that others can sign.


It's in the 4th paragraph of this story. Click on the word Petition after (not itself).


SK, thank you. It's also posted on the Foudation's home page:


The cancer gun has been loaded way too long. Fort Detrick holds the gun and the bullets. Too many victims weren't given a warning to duck. I lost my Dad, Gordan 'Bud' Black; (Kidney cancer), my husband Ron Smith (Leukemia), and several cousins from the Krantz family. You would have to bring them all back before I would trust Fort Detrick. Shame on Detrick!


The x


The question is how many of the residents are effected and at what distances from Ft. Detrich. There are still many residents in the area and at least five of them cannot use their wells and are awaiting a city water hook up. Are any residents in that area using wells besides the five and if so what plans are being made to hook them up to city water.


Fort Detrick DD. Credited for causing and curing cancer. If Fred. Co. residents aren't pissed off and emotional about this topic, they are already dead inside.


DD, Most of the cancer concentration is within a 1-3 mile radius of Fort Detrick. Those with contaminated wells have been on bottled water for an unbelievable 10 years now, since 2005-2006. The City and Fort Detrick have failed them.
They have been promised water hookup since 2011 and have been notified in writing ever since. But unfortunately, all they're getting are excuses and continued risk. We have approached the City, County and School Board offering to do environmental testing, but they have refused. Please sign the Petition and urge others to do so also. Thank you!


Fort Detrick's goes way back before 1992. I lived on Kemp Lane off Rocky Spring Road. I have test that my mother, Lena Dinterman, from the state that the water from our well that wasn't fit to drink. I also have paper work what they did to my father, Howard Dinterman. I also have problem with my liver that I believe came from the water I drank from our well on Kemp Lane. I also would like to sign this petition. Belva A Dinterman-Leach.

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