The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Friday, October 20, 2000
Paducah, Kentucky

DOE site neighbors ask board again for aid on health, land

By Joe Walker
LANCE DENNEE/The Sun--Public comments: Former plant employee Jim Chesnut addresses the Site-Specific Advisory Board Thursday as two members, Vikki Jones (left) and Tuss Taylor, take notes regarding what the public would like to be discussed in detail.

Some neighbors and former workers of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant want the government to compensate people living near the plant for health problems and land devaluation related to environmental contamination.

Their concerns which have been expressed previously in public meetings surfaced again at Thursday night's regular meeting of the Site-Specific Advisory Board. The group, which monitors issues related to plant contamination and cleanup, devoted part of the meeting for public comments.

The board will review the concerns for future action. The special session was driven, in part, by recent publicity about elevated levels of highly radioactive plutonium in inhabited areas around the plant.

DOE, which held a public meeting earlier this month on the plutonium issue, claims the levels don't pose an undue risk to plant neighbors. They were identified during an environmental probe about 10 years ago and plotted on maps last year to help with a new investigation, Don Seaborg, DOE's Paducah site manager, said earlier.

But people who spoke at the meeting, including some board members who are plant neighbors, said they don't trust the findings.

Jim Chesnut, a longtime plant employee who is retired and helping with a worker health study, asked the board to make three recommendations to DOE:

--Provide medical screening of plant neighbors, including blood testing for heavy metals. Plant neighbor Ruby English, who has spoken out often, restated her claim that her family has serious health problems from heavy metal and other plant pollutants.

--Pay "fair market value" for the land of neighbors affected by plant contamination. Various residents have said at past public meetings "that they can't sell their property," Chesnut said. DOE has provided city water to nearly 100 homes in and near the path of groundwater contamination leading from the plant to the Ohio River, but has not offered to buy the land.

--Compensate neighbors for current and future medical expenses associated with plant-related maladies. When legislation was passed recently to compensate sick workers, Chesnut said it should be broadened to include sick neighbors.