PIKETON, Ohio (WCMH) — At least 200 residents in Pike County gathered Tuesday to discuss a class-action lawsuit filed against several contractors associated with the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant.
In May, Scioto Valley Local Schools District leaders decided to close Zahn’s Corner Middle School after independent testing found enriched uranium in the building.
Nearby U.S. Department of Energy air monitors also detected neptunium 237, and other radiological elements in the environment surrounding the plant.
The A-Plant, as it is referred to by residents, produced enriched uranium from 1954 to 2001. The plant is now an environmental cleanup site.
Residents filed the lawsuit against eight contractors that either oversaw and conducted the enrichment operations or are involved in the site’s cleanup.
“We’re accusing them [the contractors] of allowing materials to blow off the site, essentially,” said Stuart Smith, one of the attorneys who represents the plaintiffs.
The lawsuit states, in part, that residents who live near the plant “…have been and continue to be exposed to radioactive contaminants, which are known to be carcinogenic substances, at a concentration higher than expected for the general populace.”
Smith explained the purpose of the lawsuit.
“The end goal is to make sure that the people that live here, that were exposed, get monitored and if they do get something from this that it’s caught quickly,” he said.
A DOE spokeswoman who said she was unable to comment on ongoing litigation, issued the following statement:
“The Department is committed to the health and safety of the Piketon community. All previous data has indicated that there is no threat to the public’s safety. In light of the recent concerns of the community surrounding the closure of Zahn’s Corner Middle School, Secretary Perry sent a technical team from the world class National Labs to Piketon to take a comprehensive sampling of the school. That data is now under evaluation and will be released soon.”
The DOE has agreed to pay for additional third-party testing in the area.
The Pike County General Health District has proposed using Ohio-based Solutient Technologies, LLC to collect the samples to be tested, which would then be analyzed in two separate labs.
No timetable for the additional testing has been released.