By Nikki Blankenship
Scioto County Candor
Monday night Portsmouth City Council unanimously supported a resolution opposing onsite waste disposal on Department of Energy (DOE) property in Piketon. Members of Piketon Village Council and the Piketon community addressed Council throughout the evening.
Mayor of Piketon Billy Spencer addressed the City of Portsmouth, stating that the DOE has lied throughout the process.
“They put out faulty information. They continue to put out faulty information,” he stated.
Spencer added that the DOE lied about fractures in the bedrock.
“The site is fractured. It’s unsafe. The community doesn’t want it. We’ve never wanted it,” Spencer stressed.
According to Spencer, other similar sites are now leaking. He added that in December 2017, in a meeting about potential problems with the site, he was told those problems would be going to Portsmouth.
The representative from Piketon explained that the DOE talks about the future use of the site and industrializing the site, but they do not see future use as a waste dump. Rather, they asked for a site for career training, STEM education and a way to rebuild help the workforce transition after the plant closes.
Vina Colley, a member of Portsmouth-Piketon Residents for Environmental Safety and Security (PRESS) and the National Nuclear Workers for Justice explained that she had been fighting these efforts for 30 years and further stated that she first told the DOE the bedrock was fractured in 1995.
“We have a direct pipe that is discharging into the Scioto River,” she added.
Colley explained that she was with member of the EPA when they tested fish in the area of the pipe, and they tested positive for radioactive materials.
“We are the real victims in Scioto County,” she stated in opposition of cancer and other health issues facing the area as a result of the plant.
Joni Fearing, running for the 90th District House of Representatives seat stressed that to re industrialize the site, the DOE needs to focus on a complete cleanup, not a dump.
She explained that the waste at the site can affect a person genetically up to four generations.
She added that though the dangers of the site may not have been known during the Cold War when it was being constructed, the dangers are known now.
Plant Manager Dennis Carr explained that the waste disposal cell will meet industrial cleanup standards. He explained that there are already five landfills and five plumes at the site that are causing an issue with reindustrialization. As part of site cleanup, those will be excavated along with all buildings. Carr added that 95 percent of high concentration waste will be shipped out west where the site gets less precipitation. Though the planned project, which the DOE is already moving dirt for, Carr says the DOE will consolidate 3,700 acres of waste into 400 acres. He added that the waste to stay onsite is low concentration waste.
“We meet the toughest environmental standards in the world, and that’s the United States environmental standards,” Carr commented.
Elizabeth Lamerson, who is a fenceline neighbor of the site, stated that the DOE has been and continues to keep secrets. She added that the waste site will be the largest of its type east of the Mississippi. She stressed that a radioactive landfill does not belong east of the Mississippi, where it is not supported by the climate. Rather, such waste should be stored in a dry climate further away from the population.
“We want a full cleanup, including landfills and plumes,” she stated.
Portsmouth City Councilman Sean Dunne started by stating that on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s death, he thought King would be in support of the people of Piketon. He spoke against the function of the site as a source of nuclear weaponry, and he spoke against the dump.
“This should not be an environmental sacrifice zone,” he commented.
Portsmouth City Councilman Tom Lowe further spoke to the cancer issue, stating, “Everyone who lives here knows this is Cancer County, USA. We have got to do something about it, and it starts right here in this room.”
Portsmouth City Councilman Kevin Johnson explained that at first he was not against the radioactive waste disposal site but that his constituents have reached out to him and changed his mind,” stating that he is a servant of his constituents.
There were no legislative items on the agenda for Monday night. The Piketon resolution was one of three items discussed as part of the City Manager’s agenda.
Piketon members were pleased with the decision.
“I’m very happy,” Spencer told the Scioto County Candor.
He explained that Piketon has now gotten the support of governments representing 250,000 in Southern Ohio. He is now demanding the attention of Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman and Representative Brad Wenstrup.
Portsmouth City Council meets at 6 p.m. on the second and fourth Monday of each month in Council Chambers, located on the second floor of the Municipal Courthouse on Second Street in Portsmouth.