While reports appearing on social media have set off a storm of controversy, during the regular meeting of the Scioto County Commissioners on Thursday, Nov. 7, Commissioner Bryan Davis defended the board for not having “released” information on possible radioactive contamination in northern Scioto County, specifically in Otway.
The issue apparently was an extensive topic of conversation during a public meeting held Saturday, Nov. 2 in Piketon. The meeting purportedly was to discuss the status of an independent third-party investigation looking into alleged contamination leaking from the long defunct Portsmouth uranium enrichment plant, commonly known as the A-plant.
Davis noted the amount of radioactive materials, first reported as americium, although Davis referred to neptunium, was over 1,000 times less than the allowable amount established by the federal government.
It should be noted the testing site was set up and readings were taken by the federal Department of Energy. They were first reported in a 2017 Annual Site Environmental Report (ASER) released earlier this year.
Public release of the ASERs routinely run about two years behind, a DOE spokesperson reported previously. However, a 2018 ASER for the Portsmouth plant was supposed to have been released sometime late this year according to the same DOE spokesperson.
DOE’s Yvette Cantrell has reported while the 2018 ASER was not finalized earlier this year, data showed no radiation was found in Otway last year. Cantrell could not be reached for comment for this story and it is unclear when the 2018 ASER might be released to the public.
On Thursday, Davis also said social media specifically described the Scioto County Board of Commissioners as “corrupt” as they allegedly sat for two months on the news of radiation allegedly loose in Otway.
What they wanted us to release was the fact the radiation discovered in Otway was a thousand times less than the federal threshold Davis said. He said the small amounts of radiation found in Otway likely could be explained by the background radiation present virtually anywhere on the planet.
Davis’ comments turned to Pike County officials for not including Scioto County Commissioners in some of their discussions over supposed radiation leaks from the A-plant. He stated he wants Scioto County involved in any third-party study, which DOE has reportedly agreed to fund, and Davis said he has contacted Scioto County Health Commissioner Mike Martin. Davis added in his turn, Martin contacted Pike County health officials.
While Saturday’s Piketon meeting purportedly was an update on the third-party study, when that study might take place remains unclear. Pike County Health Commissioner Matt Brewster did not respond directly to requests for comment. In the past, Brewster said officials are working to iron out some details of the study with DOE.
Chick Lawson is a former A-plant employee and a regular, highly vocal DOE critic. After Saturday’s meeting, Lawson told the Daily Times, Scioto County needs to arrange for testing of schools near where radiation was discovered in Otway. As most know by now, the discovery of radiation inside Zahn’s Corner Middle School in Piketon, first reported by the Daily Times, led to the closure of that school for the foreseeable future.
Again, it should be noted, DOE contends the amounts of contamination found in the school again are far below threshold levels. However, it also should be noted DOE’s numbers do not pacify the federal agency’s many critics, such as Lawson, who routinely challenge those numbers.
The Daily Times first reported the findings of the 2017 ASER in May. The subject has been raised at several previous public meetings regarding the A-plant, but the current social media buzz never appeared previously.
This newspaper also has previously reported DOE’s assertion radioactive levels in Otway and elsewhere are well below danger levels, as well as reporting critic’s dismissal of DOE’s explanations for the presence of radiation well outside plant boundaries. There also has been plenty of discussion of high cancer rates in southern Ohio, cancer rates critics blame directly on the A-plant.
Just south of Pike County, Scioto County ties for the fifth highest rate in Ohio, with 494.5 incidents of cancer per 100,000 residents. Still, it’s Pike that received national attention. According to a CNN report, five students in the Scioto Valley Local School District were diagnosed with cancer in the last five years.
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