Attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the first of two class action lawsuits filed against eight companies with some connection to the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant plan a public meeting for those who believe they suffered the effects of contamination coming from the plant.
The meeting is 1- 7 p.m., July 16 at the Ohio State University Endeavor Center, 1862 Shyville Rd., Piketon.
Filed in federal court in Cincinnati, the suit begins by alleging the populace around the 3,777-acre plant “did not know that the operations at the Portsmouth site expelled air laden with radioactive materials and other metals.”
Another claim states “winds carried the radioactive materials and other metals throughout the area in such concentrations that radioactive materials and metals can be found deposited in soils and buildings in and around Piketon.”
The suit specifically notes the closing of Zahn’s Corner Middle School in May “due to health concerns.”
As most probably know by now, a radioactive substance known as neptunium 237 was found by an air monitor set up next to the school. A private study completed by an Arizona university allegedly found enriched uranium dust inside the school building itself. The very purpose for the existence of the Portsmouth plant was the enrichment of uranium.
A second class action suit was filed last month presumably against some of the same companies, allegedly responsible for exposing Pike County residents to toxic contaminants from the defunct uranium enrichment plant. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the second suit refers to persons living in a seven-mile radius around the plant as “sacrificial lambs.” A seven-mile radius around the plant includes northern Scioto County.
“Residents who live in the vicinity of the A-plant have also experienced more than their share of cancer and other diseases, and animals and plants nearby were found to contain harmful contaminants,” the complaint reportedly reads in part.
In the meantime, Pike County Health Commissioner Matt Brewster said in a press release, preparations are continuing for a third-party assessment of possible contamination emanating from the plant.
“We have proposed using Solutient Technologies, LLC, to develop the sampling and analysis plan, develop the data quality objectives, and field sampling,” Brewster wrote. “They are based in Ohio and are licensed through the Ohio Department of Health to perform this type of work.
“The samples taken will then be sent to a national lab for analysis. We will also have split samples analyzed at a separate lab to spot check the accuracy of the data. Once the data is analyzed, the National Academy of Sciences will assist with review, health risk assessment, reporting of findings and conclusions in a public report, and review of the radiation monitoring system around the facility and recommendations for improvement.”
The federal Department of Energy promised to help with an independent assessment following the discovery of alleged contamination at the Piketon middle school, which has been closed for the immediate future. Former DOE Assistant Secretary of Energy Anne White, who resigned seemingly suddenly in May, first promised the independent study. DOE did not respond to numerous Daily Times phone calls asking if White’s promise stands in her absence. Apparently, Brewster assumes it does. The independent study has gained the support of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH.)
“The community and parents deserve answers and I am fighting to make sure they get them,” Brown wrote in an email sent to the Daily Times. “My office is working with the community, the state of Ohio, DOE and outside experts to help however we can. It’s clear we need to bring in an independent third party that the community can trust. DOE has committed to do that and I am working to make sure it’s done right. DOE has a responsibility to show that ongoing work at the site doesn’t present a public health risk to the community or the workforce on site.”
On other fronts, Brewster said Pike County’s health department received the results of DOE testing done at Zahn’s Middle School Memorial Day weekend.
“As soon as ODH (Ohio Department of Health) receives their results, we will each meet to discuss the results and then release the reports to the public,” Brewster said.
There is and has been plenty of talk regarding high instances of cancer in Pike County allegedly linked to the diffusion plant. Brewster said the federal Centers for Disease Control will not complete a cancer cluster study until completion of the third-party assessment. Brewster said some 479 people filled out Pike County’s online cancer cluster study form, along with an additional list of 115 names gathered from a community group.
“These are people who claim to have cancer or negative health effects that live near or have some connection to the plant,” Brewster said. “Even if half are thrown out from other comorbidities (such as someone with lung cancer who smokes) that is still an alarming number for a community our size. That number will only increase once individuals without internet/social media are included.”
According to the latest cancer statistics available from ODH:
• An average of 168 new invasive cancer cases and 67 deaths occurred each year among Pike County residents from 2010-2014.
• In 2010-2014, the cancer incidence rate for all sites/types combined in Pike County was 487.9 per 100,000 people, compared with the Ohio rate of 459.8 per 100,000 and the U.S. rate of 442.7 per 100,000. (That translates to a Pike County cancer rate about 9 percent above the national average.)
• The 2010-2014 cancer mortality rate in Pike County was 189.4 per 100,000, compared with the Ohio rate of 181.1 per 100,000 and the U.S. rate of 166.1 per 100,000.
Brewster noted DOE claims the amount of radioactive substance found at the middle school was a minute amount and harmless.
“Our clarifying statement to this discussion is that we accept zero increased risk for our school children and community simply because our community hosts a DOE facility and activities from that facility have caused off-site contamination,” Brewster said. “We will not accept our children having a higher risk to illness than any other child in Ohio. The students and staff at Zahn’s Corner should not have any more risk for attending school or working there than any other school district in Ohio or anywhere in the country for that matter – and the same principle applies to those living near the plant.”
Reach Tom Corrigan at (740) 370- 0715. © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.