Cancers & Deaths Blamed on Nuclear Leaks

PITTSBURGH (CN) – A federal class action claims that leaks from two nuclear processing plants poisoned dozens of people in the Kiskiminetas Valley and killed 10 of them. More than 35 named plaintiffs claim that Babcock & Wilcox Power Generation Group, B&W Technical Services and Atlantic Richfield Co. “sought to prevent details about their operations from reaching workers, [the class] or surrounding community” though the defendants were “aware of the fact that they were releasing toxic and radioactive materials into the air, water and soil.”

     The plants at issue are in the Borough of Apollo and Parks Township. The class claims the plants’ operators “opted not to take sufficient remedial measures to eliminate or abate emissions and releases.” This led to a “casual attitude towards environmental and health safety, even though they were aware of the health risks posed to by such releases,” according to the 53-page complaint.
     Because the operators withheld information about dangers and “took steps to prevent public regulatory agencies from disclosing non-trade secret documents to the public,” the class claims they were “deprived of information crucial to their ability to limit their exposure or take other appropriate action.”
     The 39 named plaintiffs joined more than 20 others who filed three other lawsuits against the nuclear plant operators in April and May this year.
     Members of the class claim to have “inhaled, ingested or otherwise absorbed [toxic] substances” that caused them to suffer from cancers of the lung, skin, esophagus, breast, bladder, colon, skin, prostate, nose, kidney, liver, uterus, mouth, bone and stomach. They also say the emissions caused adenocarcinoma, undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
     The class claims the emissions caused at least 10 deaths, including that of Michael McComb, who died of melanoma after swimming in the Kiski River downstream from the facilities.
     The class claims the wrongful discharge of radioactive and toxic materials into public water, emission of radioactive and toxic materials from facility stacks, exposure of workers, who could then spread contamination outside the worksite, and improper disposal of materials which leaked from storage tanks and disposal systems all contributed to their exposure.
     They claims that the facilities “never, in their entire history, operated in compliance with applicable state, local and federal laws,” and that the plant operators knew it. They claim the plants “routinely exceed(ed) federal stack emission regulations,” violated Pennsylvania laws on waste disposal of, failed to maintain equipment in proper working order, failed to monitor its systems and exposed workers to “unlawful and hazardous concentrations of radioactive and toxic materials.”
     The class claims their properties also have been damaged by the “hazardous [and] radioactive waters released from facilities.”
     Both nuclear plants were developed in the 1950s by Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corp., about 40 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
     The facilities were the first privately owned commercial nuclear processing plants, and used to be the largest privately owned processor of nuclear materials, including plutonium, uranium, strontium, cesium, and thorium, according to the complaint.
     The class claims that the Apollo facility, which produced fissionable materials to be used as nuclear fuel, is by the Kiskiminetas River and within a 1,000-foot radius of residents, with some resident homes only 50 feet away.
     The complaint states that processing activities ended in 1984, but the site is still used for evaluations and remedial work.
     The nuclear facility in Parks Township, which was once the “largest non-governmental plutonium development and fabrication operation in the U.S.” and was used to dispose of radioactive waste through the mid to late 1990’s, is also close to Kiskiminetas River, immediately north of the community of Kiskimere.
     Both plaints manufactured and processed materials for nuclear fuel, and processed, stored and produced uranium, enriched uranium, plutonium and other radioactive materials and other non-radioactive chemicals, “many of which are classified as hazardous,” to be used by both commercial and government customers.
     In 1967 plant operations were taken over by Atlantic Richfield , which is still an active participant in remediation and decommissioning activities, according to the complaint. Operations were passed on in 1971 to Babcock & Wilcox and B&W Technical Services, the current licensees and directors of operations.
     The class seeks damages for violations of the Price Anderson Act, negligence, liability, private nuisance, trespass, misrepresentation and concealment, civil conspiracy, and wrongful death. It is represented by Bruce Mattock with Goldberg, Persky and White.

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