The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Thursday, December 13, 2001

Environmental report says deer's radiation hike not problematic

By Bill Bartleman
BARKLEY THIELEMAN/The Sun--Revealing report: DOE site manager Don Seaborg talks about the 2000 environmental report.

The radiation level in deer tested near the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant was nearly twice as much as last year, but U.S. Department of Energy officials say it is well below federal standards for being a health risk.

The 2000 environmental report also found for the first time small amounts of polychlorinated biphenyl, or PCBs, in deer that were harvested in the West Kentucky Wildlife Management Area.

The amount of PCBs in the deer doesn't pose a health risk and is similar to the amounts found in deer tested away from the DOE compound in western McCracken County, according to DOE site manager Don Seaborg.

Even with those results, Seaborg said overall findings were consistent with previous years and consistent with other studies. "There were no surprises," he said. "There were no increases in (contamination) levels to indicate the problems are increasing. The levels are staying stagnate."

The report said the maximum radiation risk for people living near the plant in 2000 was 1.9 millirems above the normal exposure that exists in the environment. That compares with a .69 millirem risk in 1999. Seaborg said the higher risk level is related to the increases in radiation levels in deer.

The report shows that all other areas tested for radiation had decreased levels. They include surface water, direct radiation, atmospheric releases and ingestion of sediments.

He said the exposure risk from the DOE site is less than 2 percent of the regulatory limit for annual exposure, and less than 1 percent the average person receives in the United States each year. "It is one-fifth the radiation received in a typical chest X-ray," he said.

The level also is far below levels prior to 1998 when the risk exceeded 3 millirems.

The report said eight deer were taken for the study from the West Kentucky Wildlife Management Area. The highest radiation level found in deer meat was 4.7 millirems as compared to deer tested in the Ballard County Wildlife Management Area that had a level of 3.2 millirems.

The highest level of PCBs in the West Kentucky Wildlife Management Area deer was 126 parts per billion. Seaborg said that is well below the Food and Drug Administration standards that allow meat to have up to 3,000 parts per billion.

Seaborg said major progress should be made next year in site cleanup. Eventually, he said the work should result in improvements in the annual environmental reports.

Work is expected to begin early next year on cleaning the highly contaminated North-South Diversion Ditch, thought to be a major source of groundwater contamination. That work should be completed by October if a dispute can be resolved with state environmental officials over the method of disposing of excavated contaminated soil.

Work also will proceed next year on removing some of the contaminated material from the scrap pile. It is a long-term project that will take several years.