By Beth Germano

WILMINGTON (CBS) – A long awaited study from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health finds a link between childhood cancer in Wilmington in the 1990s and a formerly contaminated water supply.

“He’s sick here but we didn’t know it at the time,” said Lee Brooks sharing pictures of her son Paul, a standout soccer player, diagnosed with leukemia in 2003 at the age of 19 and died four years later. “He was getting tired easily, started losing weight, and got really sick after that.”

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What she has now is confirmation from the study that chemical waste from a now defunct Wilmington manufacturing facility on Eames Street contaminated the local drinking water leading to a cluster of 22 childhood cancers cases during that time. “I knew there was something going on, kids in town were getting sick,” said Brooks.

Brian Dellacio, 45, was one of them. “I woke up one morning with a large lump in my neck.” He was 15 years old when he was diagnosed with lymphoma. “I got through it and I’m thankful everyday,” said Dellacio. But he’s had lingering health issues over the years, and now says some concrete evidence as to why.

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Another cancer survivor, Nick Eaton agrees but adds there’s lingering anger and frustration. He was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of seven. “Decisions were made that never should have been made. You dig a hole and throw toxic chemicals into it,” said Eaton.

After paying such a price for what they say was both ignorance and carelessness, they hope the study now produces strong public policy. “We all agree the biggest gift from this is to honor those we have lost, and to get those answers to help others in the future we may never meet,” said Brian Dellacio.

The now federal superfund site was last purchased by Olin Chemical Corporation in 1980, which says it is reviewing the study, though was never asked to participate. In a statement, the company also says it is cooperating to establish a clean-up plan.

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Lee Brooks says her son Paul never leaves her heart and after all these years hopes a new chapter has opened to help someone else. “Now I’ve learned to be thankful for the times we had,” said Brooks.

Beth Germano