PARKS TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — A chain-linked fence topped with barbed wire encloses the 44-acre site in Parks, Armstrong County, where the grass-covered hills conceal a hidden menace.
Radioactive nuclear waste dumped there in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and thinly-covered with dirt, is a constant worry to those who live nearby.
“I have a vegetable garden,” one resident said. “This guy’s got 100-acres of corn over here. This stuff is spreading… into us. How do I know how it’s affecting me?”
Cases of cancer and other diseases have spawned a flurry of lawsuits against Babcock and Wilcox, which in the early 1970s bought the now-defunct nuclear development operation in nearby Apollo.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers removed more than 100 truckloads of waste, but the clean-up came to an abrupt halt two years ago upon the discovery of plutonium and uranium that the Corps was ill-equipped to handle.
“These people are saying this is okay,” the resident said. “Well, you can say okay to anything, but you don’t see anybody working over there.”
Concerned about yeas of inaction, Sen. Bob Casey ordered the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to investigate.
On Thursday, he released the report to KDKA and the news will be no comfort to the residents of Parks.
It finds due to poor or non-existent record keeping, the scope of the contamination is not known, and may be significantly worse than estimated.
In fact, one scientist familiar with the disposal said estimates by a previous clean-up operation accounted for less than five percent of the nuclear material actually dumped at the site.
“The most important thing is for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to tell the people of Armstrong County when will this be done and what’s the scope of the problem,” said Sen. Casey.
Residents want it cleaned up, but want a say in how it’s done.
“You’re going to start to unearth that stuff and start putting it out into the atmosphere to be transported and people can breathe it. I don’t think that’s a good idea,” said John Boyten, a Parks Township resident.