A report on air monitor data shows evidence of contamination outside of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) site in Piketon, the Pike County General Health District announced recently.
On June 26, the health district forwarded a data set and report received at their office regarding radioactive contamination in Pike County to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH).
“We have asked ODH to review the information and provide an opinion,” the Pike County General Health District stated in a press release.
“The report and data involve air monitor readings at locations near the DOE Portsmouth site (in Piketon). One air monitor is maintained by the Scioto Township trustees, and the other air monitor is on private property. The two air monitors are 1.37 miles apart. We have reviewed the full report, and it seems the process followed to generate the data is sound and technical.”
The report, which was submitted by Dr. Michael E. Ketterer, Ph.D., may be found online at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1aZWIboifQ7NgRh_NJO1L5o3Ae1EJQGqd/view?fbclid=IwAR0Pa2EiN7XDev74uTijMgpys1sS8c5vCBVpTPiwPG48I8CrnMVQ5QbjYlM
Dr. Ketterer is a professor emeritus of chemistry and biochemistry at Northern Arizona University.
“This report does show evidence of contamination outside of the DOE site,” the Pike health district stated. “All 42 samples contained levels of enriched uranium above background. No health implications are discussed in this report. The samples were blind, and the timeframe for both air monitors showed very similar results.”
According to the health district, this report highlights the importance of completing the comprehensive independent assessment of contamination in the area.
“As a reminder, the Department of Energy is funding an independent assessment related to the offsite contamination identified in the April 27, 2019, Northern Arizona University report,” the health district stated.
The Scioto Valley Local School District Board of Education decided to close Zahn’s Corner Middle School in May 2019 due to the detection of enriched uranium inside the school building during a study by scientists which was released by Northern Arizona University and detection of neptunium-237 in a U.S. Department of Energy air monitor adjacent to the school.
It was also announced in 2019 that americium-241 was detected at the school air monitor in 2018. The neptunium detection was from 2017 but was only made public in 2019.
According to the Pike County General Health District, americium-241 is a radioactive isotope with health effects similar to neptunium. Neptunium is a transuranic element and a known carcinogen (cancer-causing substance), according to the health district.
The school district has since quarantined the school.
The Pike County General Health District and many others have expressed belief that neptunium reached the air monitor at the school as a likely result of the construction of the waste disposal facility at the site of the nearby Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon.
In their recent press release, the Pike County General Health District stated that DOE “operates under the ALARA principle, which suggests workers perform duties where radiological and chemical exposure limits are As Low As Reasonably Achievable (ALARA).
“ALARA practices apply to virtually any substance, but are mandated for radiation workers by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). It states that one can never have ‘zero’ radiation exposure because of the naturally occurring radioactivity or background that surrounds us in our everyday lives. Therefore, the best that can be achieved is to ‘add nothing’ to the background dose, i.e. we keep our exposure ALARA. This methodology recognizes that any exposure above background causes an increased risk. While that is expected for those workers willing to take the risk, it is unacceptable for those risks to be placed on an unwilling public.
“The stance of the health district is that we will not accept any increased risk for our community. Any level of contamination found above background (regardless of how small) causes an increased risk. Our community should have no greater risk of exposure than any other community regardless of location. Based on DOE’s own principles — if you add ‘any’ level of radiation no matter how small, you increase risk.”