Australian news, and some related international items

USA community resists federal govt’s plan for a radioactive waste dump

This Town Didn’t Want to Be a Radioactive Waste Dump. The Government Is Giving Them No Choice. Earther,  Yessenia Funes , 17 May 19,PIKETON, OHIO—David and Pam Mills have grown tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and okra on their secluded Appalachian property for about 18 years now. This will be the first year the retired couple doesn’t. They just can’t trust their soil anymore. Not with what’s being built barely a five-minute walk away.
Past the shed and through the gray, bare trees that grow in the backyard, bulldozers and dump trucks are busy scooping tan-colored dirt atop an overlooking hill on a brisk January afternoon. They’re constructing a 100-acre landfill for radioactive waste. …..On a short metal fence marking where the Mills property ends, a sign reads, “U.S. PROPERTY, NO TRESPASSING,” in big, bold letters with red, white, and blue borders.

The Department of Energy (DOE) owns what sits on the other side: the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant. The DOE built the 1,200-acre facility, located just outside town of Piketon about an hour’s drive south of Columbus in southcentral Ohio, in 1954, as one of three plants it was using to enrich uranium and develop the country’s nuclear weapons arsenal. Now, the agency is trying to clean it up.

The landfill—or “on-site waste disposal cell,” as the department calls it—would extend about 60-feet down and house 2 million tons of low-level radioactive waste comprised of soil, asbestos, concrete, and debris. It’ll be outfitted with a clay liner, a plastic cover layer, and a treatment system for any water that leaches through it. When finished, it will be one of the largest nuclear waste dumps east of the Mississippi.

Waste could begin entering it as soon as this fall…….

“It’s gonna contaminate everything,” David says, after he shows me how close the landfill sits to his property. “It’s just a matter of time.”

The couple is far from alone in their fears. The 2,000-strong Village of Piketon passed a resolution in August 2017 opposing the landfill. So did the local school district and the Pike County General Health District, where Piketon resides. The rural, low income, and largely white county is home to more than 28,000 people across a number of small towns and cities, some of which have passed their own resolutions against this project. Driving through neighborhoods behind Piketon’s main highway, lawn signs covered in red stating “NO RADIOACTIVE WASTE DUMP in Pike County” can be seen everywhere……
The Zahn’s Corner Middle School, which sits barely a 10-minute drive away from the plant, closed on May 13 after university researchers detected enriched uranium inside the building, and traces of neptunium appeared in readings from an air quality monitor right outside the school. While the DOE believes everything’s fine, the Pike County General Health District has been calling for the department to halt work while it investigates the matter. Townspeople worry this contamination is a direct result of recent activity at the plant.
All of this highlights deep public distrust over the nuclear facility’s cleanup plan. And after reviewing thousands of pages of documents—including independent studies, the project’s record of decision, and the remedial investigation and feasibility studies that went into writing it—to understand the risks, it’s clear the public isn’t worried for nothing.
Here’s the thing: Nothing is technically illegal about the landfill. The DOE, though the polluter, is taking the lead on cleaning up the facility, and the Ohio EPA supports its plan. Whether their decision is morally right given local opposition is another matter. But this is what often happens when a corporation or governmental entity needs to dispose of toxic waste: It gets left in an overlooked town no one’s heard of……..
What they, and everyone really, didn’t understand at the outset of the Cold War was the lasting impacts uranium enrichment could have. Sure, scientists understood radioactive material could cause cancer, but they thought that it’d take a lot of radiation, explained Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist and acting director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Nuclear Safety Project. Now, we know any exposure poses a risk……
Now,  the DOE is left with the task of cleaning up the more than 2 million tons of low-level radioactive waste and thousands more tons of hazardous waste the plant’s operations left behind. Completing the landfill is estimated to take another 10 to 12 years, with the entire clean-up projected to go on until 2035. ……
Money aside, shipping radioactive waste off-site has other benefits. Some 24 wetlands and 38 streams sit near the landfill. To bury the waste on-site, the DOE must waive a requirement that prevents it from constructing the landfill within 200 feet of these kinds of water bodies. The department can do so because even though it’s not technically a Superfund, it’s being regulated as one, a common practice for such DOE facilities. ……
the local hydrology is a key point of concern among community members. The region has a rainy climate, and it’s been seeing above-average levels of precipitation in recent years. More than anything, it’s the idea of rainfall causing the landfill’s contents to leak into the groundwater that makes people so nervous…….
Despite the fancy cut-outs put together by DOE contractor Fluor-BWXT, Chillicothe city council members passed a resolution that day against the waste cell. And it wouldn’t be the last: at least 11 counties, townships, city councils, and school boards in southcentral Ohio have come out against the project. Unfortunately, the plan was set by the time these resolutions passed.
Here’s the thing: Many residents didn’t even know about the landfill until after the DOE had already decided on it. The public had between November 2014 and March 2015 to comment on the project. The department published its record of decision in favor of the landfill on June 30, 2015. Then, the backlash hit……..

A lot of community members worry that the town will continue to be impoverished and devoid of business opportunities so long as it’s home to the landfill. Who’s going to want to invest in a place that’s a nuclear dumpsite?

And Piketon officials don’t trust the DOE at all. Neither does the plant’s former chief scientist, David Manuta, who worked there for nearly 11 years and has seen firsthand the operations that went on.

“DOE has a history in this community of not listening,” Manuta told Earther. “DOE is not a popular government agency in this community.”……

As the Ferguson Group points out in its analysis, fractures deeper than 20 feet exist throughout the entirety of where the landfill will be built, with some reaching as deep as 70 feet.

“This is the craziness of it all. They go out there and investigate this what we call ‘ideal site,’ right?” Karl Kalbacher, the Ferguson Group consultant Piketon hired for this analysis, told me. “There’s groundwater just oozing out of the ground, which tells you there’s a very shallow water table. They document that there are streams that are flowing through the proposed site area.”……..
To opponents of the landfill, all these fractures and discrepancies raise concerns about the DOE’s commitment to keeping the region contaminant-free. So does the recent independent analysis from Northern Arizona University that prompted the closure of Piketon’s Zahn’s Corner Middle School this week. That analysis found that the Scioto River and village creeks, as well as dust and soils from the school and private homes, are currently contaminated with enriched uranium, neptunium, and plutonium—all radioactive carcinogens. While the analysis did not measure concentrations, it found that much of this contamination could, indeed, be traced back to the plant……..

Regardless of whether the DOE is concerned, the evidence suggests demolition of the plant and construction of the landfill may already be spreading some contaminants via the air. Add in the threat of the landfill impacting groundwater, and opponents see several additional health risks in a regional already overburdened by cancer.

Pike County’s cancer rate of 487.9 per 100,000 incidences is higher than the state average of 459.8 per 100,000 incidences. In fact, all the counties surrounding Portsmouth—Vinton, Ross, Highland, Adams, Scioto—have some of the highest rates in the state.

Jeanie Williams, a 63-year-old who’s lived in a spacious trailer home since 1972 right alongside the plant—not far from where the Mills live—knows that statistic all too personally. Cancer took Williams’ brother in 1999. Her dad worked at the plant and died of lung disease about 10 years ago. Her stepfather worked there and died last year from cancer. Her daughter is battling colon cancer.

May 17, 2019 - Posted by | General News

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: