BELLPORT, N.Y. -- A Long Island mother is fighting to have the school her son attended closed. She says it wasn't until his tragic death at the age of 13 that she learned that toxic air from the nearby landfill could have been the cause of his cancer.
She is filing a lawsuit against the town of Brookhaven and the nearby school.
Nacole Hutley says she is filled with grief and guilt.
"He said if I had known that, I never would have gone to school there," Hutley said.
Her son, Javien Coleman, attended Frank P. Long Intermediate in Bellport and within a year contracted non-Hodgkins lymphoma. But after a brave struggle that included a bone marrow transplant, Coleman died in the hospital last October at the age of 13.
"Everything, like, changed," Hutley said.
She said her son's zest for football and learning suddenly dwindled after one year in the school.
"Headaches, back pain, he was throwing up," Hutley said.
It was only then she learned her community, a story CBS2 has covered.
"Our eyes are irritated consistently," one teacher said back in 2018.
"Piercing headaches," another said.
"Mysterious rashes," another added.
Two of the school employee plaintiffs have since died of cancer.
"Having a school at the foothill of a 275-foot mountain of garbage and waste is a bad idea," said Adrienne Esposito of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment.
The town paid a $250,000 fine for violating the Clean Air Act. The school deemed air testing samples as "safe."
"You have a young child who is perfectly healthy, has no genetic disposition to the type of cancer, goes into a school which has elevated levels of certain toxins and then gets the type of cancer that those toxins cause," plaintiffs' attorney E. Christopher Murray said, referring to Benzene and TCE.
The landfill is slated to close in 2024 when it's expected to reach capacity, but it could remain open for a designated period to accept ash from incinerators.
"The school really needs to be shut down. They are jeopardizing a lot of kids. Not just the kids but the teachers, the workers," Hutley said.
Ironically, outside of the school there is no mention of odors or toxic air. Signs are posted referring to a no idle zone, yet children are breathing.
"This is about social justice," Esposito said. "Let's be honest. If this school was in an affluent community, do you think it would be located at the base of a landfill?"
South Country Superintendent of Schools Antonio Santana shared the following statement with CBS2:
"For any community, especially learning communities such as a school district, the loss of a child is extremely heartbreaking. The passing of Javien Coleman is a tragedy. We offer condolences again to all of the family and friends affected by his untimely passing. With regard to the pending litigation, unfortunately the District and the Board of Education cannot comment at this time."
A 2019 state health report said cancers among school personnel did not appear to be unusually high.
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