PIKETON, Ohio (WCMH) — More than a week after a Pike County school was closed due to the discovery of enriched uranium in the building, concern over the extent of the radioactive contamination continues to grow.
In addition to the discovery in the school by an outside researcher, the United States Department of Energy says neptunium and americium were also detected by nearby air monitors. Additionally, a scientist from Northern Arizona University says his tests reveal contamination in area homes, waterways and the soil.
Many in Pike County are concerned that the chemicals may be coming from the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant, which once produced enriched uranium and is now an environmental clean-up site.
Dave Mills lives about 1,200 feet from the plant.
He tells NBC4 that he hears work at the plant for several hours a day, and he’s worried about inhaling the possible contaminants that may be coming from it.
“We come out to mow and weed, and get our butts back in the house where we’re hoping that our micro-filter, our air-conditioner and furnace will take some of the contaminants out of the air,” Mills said.
The DOE has pledged to pay for additional third party testing of the area.
On Tuesday, Governor Mike DeWine released the following statement regarding his correspondence with U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry:
I thank Secretary Perry for his prompt response and his pledge for the third party study to be completed as quickly as possible. I concur with with Secretary Perry’s plan for an accelerated testing schedule for the school, and I welcome the Department of Energy and others to begin this process as soon as is feasible. I am asking that Pike County officials engage their chosen independent entity by the end of May. I am pledging to provide any staff resources from Ohio EPA and the Ohio Department of Health that Pike County officials need to engage their selection.
Previously, the DOE released the following statement regarding the contamination:
Routine air samples in the area of DOE’s Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon revealed trace amounts of two radiological isotopes that were more than one thousand to ten thousand times below the established threshold of public health concern. DOE treats all detections seriously – even those that are at such low levels.
The Department of Energy is committed to the safety, health and protection of our workforce, the general public and the environment at all our sites. Accordingly, we are working together with the local officials and stakeholders to engage an independent third party to perform an additional analysis of the air and ground readings to properly assess the situation. We are confident that those
findings will allay any cause for further concern.