Note: This story appears in the Wednesday, June 5 newspaper on Page A3.
PIKETON — A lawsuit filed in late May alleges that winds have long carried radioactive materials and other metals from the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon to the surrounding area.
The suit seeks remediation of the plaintiffs’ alleged contaminated properties.
The class action lawsuit was filed in federal court on behalf of plaintiffs who live near the plant site: Ursula McGlone, Jason McGlone, Julia Dunham, and two minor children.
The court case was filed weeks after a Pike County school was closed due to enriched uranium being reportedly detected inside the building.
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 Scioto Valley Local School District Board of Education decided last month to close Zahn’s Corner Middle School for the remainder of the school year. There was enriched uranium reportedly detected inside the school building and also 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.
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 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 Corp., Uranium Disposition Services LLC, BWXT Conversion Services LLC, Mid-America Conversion Services, Bechtel Jacobs Co. 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.
The court case alleges the defendants, through silence and aggressive public relations efforts, have not been honest with the public and the plaintiffs concerning the contamination of nearby properties and the danger to public health.
The lawsuit 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 suit claims that the defendants never received a license to dispose of radioactive materials on the plaintiffs’ properties via air dispersion.
“The method of disposal that has caused harm to plaintiffs is not and has never been a licensed activity,” the lawsuit states.
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 judgment 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.
The lawsuit 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.”
Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth released a statement concerning the lawsuit on May 31, stating the company is aware of the complaint and is following the situation.
“We are working closely with the U.S. Department of Energy on the current investigative efforts underway,” Fluor-BWXT’s statement reads. “As this is an on-going legal issue, we will allow the legal process to play itself out.”
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Matt Lucas is the managing editor of The Pike County News-Watchman.