PIKETON, Ohio (WCMH) — The Pike County General Health District is asking for residents’ information, to determine if there is a connection between the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant and the region’s number of cancer cases.
According to the Ohio Health Department’s 2019 Cancer Atlas, Pike County has the second highest incidence rate, per 100,000 people, in the state.
Local health leaders are calling on those who either have cancer, or relatives of those who had it, to complete an online form if the individuals involved live or lived within ten miles of the plant.
From 1954 until 2001, the plant produced enriched uranium. The Department of Energy is currently conducting an environmental cleanup of the site.
The facility has come under increased scrutiny, after independent testing revealed enriched uranium in the nearby Zahn’s Corner Middle School. Government testing also found other radioactive elements, nearby.
The Department of Energy previously released a statement that read:
“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.Department of Energy
Local health leaders are hoping the Centers for Disease Control and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry will assist with the study, analyzing if there is a correlation between the plant and the county’s cancer rate.
According to Pike County General Health District Commissioner Matt Brewster, the CDC/ATSDR will not proceed with a cancer cluster study until the third-party independent analysis is complete. Brewster said he and other leaders are considering handling the study locally.
At last check, Brewster said 320 individuals have filled out the online form to participate in the study.