Article first in a series that will discuss all aspects of long-term radiation leakage
By Bill Shope
Scioto Voice Writer
For those who were actually present at the last Scioto County Commissioner’s meeting, the moment was striking-Scioto County Commissioners Mike Crabtree and Bryan Davis responded to recent criticisms regarding accusations made that county officials had not reacted properly when informed of radiation levels detected in Otway by The U.S. Department of Energy. These were not possible levels detected-the information was collected and identified by the federal agency.
“We all have had friends and relatives that worked at the A-Plant over the years-I have had friends I went to school with that are dead now, that worked there. One developed cancer from overexposure to that stuff, along with people from Pike County that have also passed on because of what goes on at the A-Plant,” Crabtree said to the media and people present. “There are groups out there now that are trying to do something about that, but my biggest concern that some of the people out there, trying to put pressure on the County Commissioners and bad-mouthing everyone else for not doing enough, are some of the same people that worked there for years drawing a paycheck and when the paycheck was no longer coming in, they decided to attack the Department of Energy. I think the DOE knew of the dangers there and the people that worked there knew of the dangers there; but it wasn’t much of a concern and they never said anything until they got away from there.”
Crabtree went on to say, “I don’t’ know why it is, they were on the inside looking out-they knew all of this stuff better than we did and yet they were silent as long as they got a paycheck. For that reason, I don’t take that very kindly. Now, it’s everybody’s fault the A-Plant is there, it is everyone’s fault that cells are being dug up there, but the people that worked there all of those years, how much of the burden is on them?”
Davis offered an explanation of the findings, which were a point of a discussion held at a contentious town meeting in Piketon several days before. During the meeting prior to Tuesday’s Scioto County Commissioner’s meeting, Chick Lawson informed the Commissioners of several findings that he claimed were documented, showing that the DOE knew of violations that had taken place at the uranium enrichment facility for years, as well as the findings in Otway.
Davis said, “I’ll be honest, I am angry about this as well. Some of the comments posted on a local website were nothing more than “click-bait”, designed to get a reaction. As far as the reading is concerned, this happened in 2017.We were informed about this two months ago, by a private citizen. It was interesting we heard about it from a private citizen and not the Pike County Health Department or our own health department. I contacted our Health Commissioner, Dr. Mike Martin and he was not aware of this either. He promptly contacted Marty Brewster in Pike County’s Health Department. What was caught on that monitor was for Americium. The federal permissible level for that is .18. The one sample we are talking about was 1,000 times lower than that permissible level-that is what people are saying should be reported to the public. A hit like that could happen anywhere-that’s the detail people are talking about, which is included in the Annual Site Environmental Report (ASER) report, which is a public document.”
Davis then stated that there is third-party testing being conducted “right now” on the basis of these complaints. “We support this and we understand-the Commissioners want the Scioto County Health Department to be involved. Instead of people calling us corrupt and saying, based on this reading, everyone in Otway is going to die, learn the facts.”
Later, Davis told The Scioto Voice, ’According to FLUOR, the only hit on the Otway monitor in recent memory was in 2018. It was for Americium 241 and it was 10,000 below the federal permissible level. The monitor is 37 miles upwind of the plant and is a background monitor. There is more Americium in your average home smoke detector than what hit that monitor.”
However, several local people, including Lawson, believe it to be a far more serious problem than indicated. Lawson, a former A-Plant worker, was initially assigned to the plant’s police department was a safety officer for the police union and later, due to the privatization of the facility, became an Ohio Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) certified-investigator. In an interview,
Lawson told The Voice, “What the federal government is talking about is ionizing radiation. Your skin can stop it, but because it is airborne, if you ingest it, the toxicity has a latency period-for a child, you are looking at 4-10 years, before they realize they have cancer depending on their immune system and with an adult it would be roughly 10-15 years. I will also say this-if you look into it; Commissioner Davis’ speaking points are almost exactly DOE use at a meeting when it was revealed Zahn’s Corner was contaminated. If you ingest this, you are looking at 1,000,000th of a gram to cause a fatal cancer. If the Americium was found like they said it was, you will have Plutonium and Neptunium traveling with that which means that because the Otway air monitor is located one mile west of Northwest schools, most likely means there is contamination there. Is it a lot, where you walk in and see it? No-but if a child is playing outside and stirs it up or when a heating system or air conditioner is turned on and it gets sucked up into the building and into a classroom, if ingested, it’s the ingestion and toxicity that is different than the ionizing.”
Jeff Walburn, also a former employee of the plant, asked a simple question.
“When did our children become part of this exposure quotient? It is clear the DOE has lost control of their contamination control, because it is off-site. By their own ASER records, they have contaminated south of the plant by 14 miles.”
Lawson addressed Crabtree’s comments by saying, “We absolutely did not know the risk when employed there. We knew there was a risk in the nuclear industry, but when you are told there are alarm systems in place that will sound to warn you if there is a problem and they wire around the alarm system, which I have the documents to prove that claim, or they have rigged the alarms not to go off or even falsified log books where they show their investors that they actually work. When the criticality alarms are set so high because they are setting them off because we are having massive, subcritical reactions; these are things we did not know until Jeff (Walburn) filed his case and then the information I filed as an OSHA-certified investigator for the plant.”
Local, long-time activist, Vina Colley, also a former A-Plant employee, told The Scioto Voice in a statement, “I called twice the first week of November, 2019 still waiting to hear from the Commissioners. Now, the Portsmouth Piketon Residents for Environmental Safety and Security and (NNWJ) National Nuclear Workers for Justice is offering a certified independent technician to take samples in all the schools for nothing. We have called the Scioto County Commissioners and left a message. We have let the Piketon health department know about the testing. We all know someone who had or has cancer or other industry-related illnesses. We have a right to know what is happening to our family and friends. One member of the Commissioners’ staff has lost over 17 family members with different cancers. “
Colley also said, that “Commissioner Crabtree is wrong when he says that workers or groups didn’t come forward until after they lost their jobs. The Union informed the state of Ohio Health Department that workers were dying with cancers in 1957. I personally filed a grievance to the DOE and Department of Labor while working at the plant in 1983. I thought that more than 30 workers were being exposed to radiation and asked for an investigation. Many other workers have asked for a full investigation. In 1979 the full union body under the leadership of Dennis Bloomfield went to D.C. asking for a full investigation. At one time we had almost 600 violations on site that workers filed. It takes years of studies and scientific background to understand what is going on at the plant. What is on both the site and offsite is the product from the plant, not fallout or background levels. We reprocessed Russian and American reactor fuel. Piketon was not supposed to recycle reactor fuel. This was done in secret and the communities and workers were left in the dark.”
While it is clear the Commissioners and whistleblowers alike have a deep concern for the people affected by the radiation that has leaked and emanated from Piketon for well over half a century, the immediate outlook and long range impact is not quite yet in clear focus.
What is clear, however, is there is a problem, a deadly problem in our region.
The only solution is to become knowledgeable, factually, and respond as if yours or someone else’s life depends on it.
This is the first of a four-part series that will run concurrently, with Pike and Scioto officials offering input, as well as plant officials.