An informational meeting concerning radioactive materials from the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon has been set for Tuesday, July 16 from 1:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the OSU Endeavor Center, 1862 Shyville Road, Piketon.
Members of a legal team involved in a class action lawsuit against current and former companies contracted at the Piketon plant will be on-hand at the hearing.
“These materials are at such a level that the local school within two miles of the Portsmouth plant was forced to close but no nuclear incident or warnings came from the private companies performing work in and around the site for decades,” states a press release from meeting organizers. “Much of this poisonous material is disposed on and around the site to this day. Elevated levels of radioactive material have been independently documented by environmental experts working with the team hosting this meeting.”
“It is not if you will be negatively impacted, it is when,” said Legal Advisor Stuart H. Smith.
Smith said environmental evidence gathered so far has shown radioactive materials consistent with those expected to be found at uranium enrichment sites. Exposure to these toxins can cause physical and genetic damages, including cancers and birth abnormalities.
Especially invited to the meeting are residents, property owners, business owners, farmers, employees, students or anyone who regularly entered the 12-mile radius around the plant site.
“Actions are being taken now to hold those responsible accountable for the harm they have caused by their careless mishandling of the most dangerous materials,” said attorney Jason Leasure.
Impacted individuals are urged to attend this free hearing. For more information about the meeting and the lawsuit or if you are an impacted person who wants to reach out to the legal team, go to https://pikeradiation.clfnola.com
In a June 6 letter to Matt Brewster, health commissioner for the Pike County General Health District, Paul M. Dabbar, under secretary for science for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), stated that after a review of the longtime monitoring processes at the Piketon plant site, DOE was notified on May 28 by contractor Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth, LLC, “that a minor miscalculation resulted in under-reporting of certain individual dose rates provided in several reports, including the 2001 to 2017 Annual Site Environmental Reports and the 2001 to 2017 annual National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants Reports submitted to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA). The contractor discovered the error in its calculations used to convert measured air monitor data to individual dose. The contractor corrected the error, and after recalculating, the revised individual dose rates remain far below health and safety standards.”
According to Dabbar, the comprehensive review of the longtime monitoring process was conducted at the order of U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry “in response to recent events at Zahn’s Corner Middle School.”
The Scioto Valley Local School District Board of Education decided to close Zahn’s Corner Middle School as of Monday, May 13 due to the detection of enriched uranium inside the school building during a recent study by scientists which was released by Northern Arizona University on April 27 and detection of neptunium-237 in a U.S. Department of Energy air monitor adjacent to the school.
It was also announced recently that americium-241 was detected at the school air monitor in 2018. The neptunium detection was from 2017 but was only made public in recent months.
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 Pike County General Health District and others have expressed belief that neptunium reached the air monitor at the school as a likely result of the construction of an onsite waste disposal facility at the plant site.
Among those expressing doubt about Dabbar’s statement that revised individual dose rates remain far below health and safety standards is Piketon Village Councilman Dennis Foreman.
Foreman stated that the timing of DOE’s admission concerning under-reporting of dosage rates was “very interesting and proof that it is hard to trust DOE.”
“The recent revelation of 17 years of under-reporting of radioactive exposures to the public near the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant might be new to many, but for those of us who work closely with the situation, we recognize it is just the latest in a series of insults against the local community,” Foreman stated. “DOE failed to mention the underreporting to the SSAB (Site Specific Advisory Board) during the meeting on June 6. This letter justifies the need for DOE to provide the community with the resources to hire an independent consultant to evaluate their data, collect new samples and determine the extent, level, and health effects of the offsite contamination.”
As for Dabbar’s statement that revised individual dose rates remain far below health and safety standards, Foreman said that it is hard to have confidence and even harder to trust DOE.
“(Dabbar’s) letter provides no information as to what the health standards are, what the dose rates are, what calculations were used, what the risks are to kids versus adults, what the differences are between being exposed and actually inhaling or ingesting neptunium or americium,” Foreman said. “The letter basically says, ‘We lied to you about your dose, but don’t worry.’”
“Don’t forget, this isn’t the first time DOE has provided us with bad information,” Foreman continued. “DOE also lied to the community about fractures in the bedrock at the nuclear dump they want to build here.”
The lawsuit filed on May 26 alleges that through the years winds have carried radioactive materials and other metals from the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon to the surrounding area, and the suit seeks remediation of the contamination on plaintiffs’ properties.
The class action lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court Southern District of Ohio Eastern Division on behalf of plaintiffs who live near the plant site, Ursula McGlone, Jason McGlone, Julia Dunham, and two minor children.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs are also seeking to represent all property owners, residents and former residents with more than one year of residence within a seven-mile radius of the Portsmouth site “or other geographic designation as supported by future scientific evidence,” as well as all current and former students at Zahn’s Corner Middle School from 1993 to the present and their parents.
The lawsuit also seeks “injunctive relief to protect plaintiffs and class members from further damages.”
Defendants in the suit include current and former companies contracted at the Piketon plant, including Centrus Energy Corp., United States Enrichment Corporation, Uranium Disposition Services, LLC, BWXT Conversion Services, LLC, Mid-America Conversion Services, Bechtel Jacobs Company, LLC, LATA/Parallax Portsmouth, LLC, and Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth, LLC.
Defendants have been or were involved in various activities at the Piketon plant site. Activities listed in the lawsuit as being conducted by various defendants included uranium enrichment, operating the Depleted Hexafluoride Conversion Plant (DUF6 Conversion Plant), operating the American Centrifuge Plant lead cascade facility, and environmental cleanup.
The suit alleges that the populace surrounding the plant site did not know that the operations at the site expelled air laden with radioactive material and other metals and that winds have carried the radioactive materials and other metals throughout the area in such concentrations that they can be found deposited in soils and buildings in and around Piketon.
The suit alleges that the defendants, through silence and aggressive public relations efforts, have not been honest with the pubic and the plaintiffs concerning the contamination of nearby properties and the danger to public health.
The suit further alleges that “plaintiffs and Class Members are individuals who have suffered economic losses, property losses, and non-economic damages as the result of Defendants’ toxic and radioactive releases. Plaintiffs and Class Members have all suffered in common an array of damages from Defendants’ emissions of radioactive material.”
The lawsuit claims that the defendants never received a license to dispose of radioactive materials on the plaintiffs’ properties via air dispersion.
Causes of action alleged against each defendant include counts of negligence/gross negligence, trespass, nuisance, ultra-hazardous activity/absolute liability/strict liability, injunctive and equitable relief of medical monitoring, and declaratory judgement clarifying the rights and obligations of the parties to each other.
Part of the relief sought by the plaintiffs is an order implementing a medical surveillance and medical monitoring program.
According to the lawsuit, plaintiffs and members of the class action suit “have been and continue to be exposed to radioactive contaminants, which are known to be carcinogenic (cancer-causing) substances, at a concentration higher than expected for the general populace.”
The lawsuit also asks for a jury trial.
According to the lawsuit, the McGlones live approximately two miles from the site on property they own.
“Scientific testing shows their property to be impacted with radioactive and toxic materials,” the lawsuit states.
Julia Dunham lives approximately four miles from the site on property she owns, according to the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs, including two minor children, are seeking “damages for loss of use and enjoyment of property, diminution of property value, annoyance, inconvenience, emotional distress, punitive and property damage, including remediation, along with such injunctive and declaratory relief as necessary to protect human health and the environment.”
“Evidence indicates that properties and persons living near the site were exposed to toxic substances which will negatively impact their health and property values,” said Smith, who is one of the attorneys in the class action. “Worse, they were never informed of the contamination and its impact.”
According to a press release concerning the lawsuit from the public relations firm The Brylski Company, “The biggest problem for the community and workers is that unlike a petrochemical or plastics plant, the radioactive materials cannot be detected by the human senses. The team of scientists working with Mr. Smith have already documented elevated levels of radioactive particles in the properties surrounding the Portsmouth facility.”
A separate class action lawsuit was filed in federal court on behalf of Pike County residents against some of the current and former contractors at the site in June. (Look for future story in the News Watchman concerning this lawsuit.)