Former Employees Testified Radiation Hazards Near former Huntington Nuclear Weapons Plant

Updated 17 weeks ago by Tony E. Rutherford, News Editor, (c) 2014 by Tony Rutherford (Attribution Permitted)

Former Employees Testified Radiation Hazards Near former Huntington Nuclear Weapons Plant
Huntington News has obtained a court transcript alleging that at least one building that had been used for Atomic Energy Commission nuclear weapon production allegedly did not undergo decontamination. The so-called “compressor” building remained on the site where the five story Reduction Pilot Plant (Huntington Pilot Plant) had been leveled in 1978-1979 by Cleveland Construction.

At least one employee alleged in a court transcript that he worked in the compressor site after the then determined contaminated/classified portions of the RPP/HPP had been buried in a classified land fill in Piketon, Ohio.

“Old broken concrete , water would stand on it, ” the former employee testified. “My feet would be wet. They had two ponds out there that cooled stuff. They filled them in and I worked on top of it.”

The employee indicated in his testimony that he was hired in 1965.

As for the compressor building, it was used for wastewater monitoring.

(Editor's Note: A September 1, 2013 draft report by the Huntington Sanitary Board proposed sanctions against Special Metals for factors that dated back to 1999. The full list of potential violations have not been made public under attorney/client privilege. It is unknown whether any pretreatment issues related to wastewater treatment from the former compressor structure which these employees and their attorney maintain was not decontaminated after nuclear weapons production usage.)

“They bragged about putting a computer in there that would take care of the work so nobody would have to be in that building to monitor wastewater,” another former employee testified. He displayed his hands. “I got liquid on them that come out of a piece of pipe and there’s no cure.”

After tearing down the RPP building, one employee had an office “up over a window” near the compressor structure. “There was always a green dust,” he testified.Eventually, after experiencing illness, he worked out of a trailer by the structure. Then "they shut the job down. They've got a barb wire fence around it. ( as of the 2010 transcript ). " He testified that "the most dangerous stuff they had came out of [the contaminated refinery]. The residue that came out of the RPP building , they stored it over across the street," he said, as a third employee added, "it was a welding products [building]."

Green came up again, though not in a sworn transcript. More than one employee have told of “green stuff” dumped at the top of the hill. “It was put in plastic for recycling,” one said. He alluded to an undetermined law that made the dumping stop.

According to testimony, Huntington’s facility did not have funds to upgrade the remains of the former nuclear weapons portion of the plant. He told of kids walking to the Altizer swimming pool walking down railroad tracks and “tossing rocks through windows.”  When employees traveled the same route --- as the children --- to do work, “we’d pick up pigeons , crows, and birds of all types that were dead… I had gloves on….”

Unlike other accounts of the HPP, these employees maintain that other portions of the INCO/Special Metals facility performed work for the Atomic Energy Commission.

"There's been testimony that the employees would check with a Geiger counter and it would just peg out of the machine," attorney Frank Gerlach testified referring to materials that were melted down at the plant's refinery, where the contaminated material was processed back to a usable form of nickel. "The plant would sell it through the normal process," the attorney stated. "

An employee added "they were bringing the stuff in [the refinery ] and they melted it. It had to go somewhere. It could go up the [smoke] stack or whatever."

"The entire INCO facility was a DOE facility in that it processed , under contract, nickel scrap from the various atomic facilities, such as Puducah, Fernald, Portsmouth and other places... making each and every employee at INCO subject to the radioactive pollution that occurred . [We also ] confirm that there were releases of poisonous gases daily at nighttime at that facility and they would completely destroy the vegetation..."

However, a truck driver raises the hairs on your head.  Specifically, he testified at least some of these  radioactive materials allegedly came from Russia following the Chernobyl meltdown.

Former Employees Testified Radiation Hazards Near former Huntington Nuclear Weapons Plant

The  truck driver told under oath that he brought so called “raw material” from Burnaugh, Kentucky to the Huntington (Alloys) plant beginning in the 1990s. He testified that the Russian radioactive materials ceased in October 2009.

Radiation detectors were installed shortly after he started driving at the Burnaugh   plant, but "any time I would haul nickel, we would set off the detectors. It did so much that they shut them off because it was a nuisance," he testified. At the Huntington plant, "my supervisor would come out and would say, they are out of calibration and wave us through." His delivery went to operation areas, storerooms, and the refinery.

 

The driver stated that the melt and remelt shops at the plants worked with the nickel based tubing.  “We wondered when we were going to start glowing in the dark.”

Even the hearing examiner did not dispute the testimony.

"I'm not saying there wasn't potential contamination or other things there." The examiner disputed whether there was a AEC/DOE contract for work on nuclear weapons.

 

PERMITS MAKE IT OK, UP TO THEIR LIMITS

To comprehend the risks after the partial clean up by 1979 standards, attorney Clare Hartnett writes in “Cleanup of Releases of Radioactive Materials from Commercial Low Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Sites: Whose Jurisdiction” published in 1994  in Vol. 34 of the Natural Resources Journal how overlaps exist between Superfund (Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation & Recovery Act, CERCLA), the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) , the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“CERCLA was not intended to preempt existing legislation. This is evidenced by the federally permitted release exemption, which explicitly exempts releases from CERCLA liability pursuant to an AEA license,” the document states.

The article explains that a specified “release” of a contaminant will often be allowed as part of a federal permit. Simply, a “permit” allows a determined amount of the contaminant to be released. The EPA has authority ONLY if the permit holder EXCEEDS the limits of their legally enforceable federal license.  Where radiation is concerned, the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 and NRC regulations cover special nuclear or byproduct materials. The EPA has radiological jurisdiction only for OFFSITE releases.

As an example, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System [NPDES] permit would override Clean Water Act provisions for discharges in the enumerated location. T.E. Industries, Inc. v. Safety Light Corp. 680 F. Supp. 696 (D.N.J. 1988) and Idaho v. Hanna Mining Co, 699 F. Supp. 827, 833 (D. Idaho 1987).

For instance, Kentucky’s Maxey Flats site (outside Morehead) had contaminated environmental media in non radiological chemical  leachate concentrations, air, soil, ground water, surface water and steam sediments. While the airborne releases of tritium were within maximum permissible levels under state regulations outside of the restricted zone, the ground water levels outside the restricted area ranged from 2.5 to ten times allowances.

(c) Tony Rutherford & HNN. All Rights Reserved. Reprint with Attribution and link permitted.

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