APR 5, 2022
MARTINS FERRY — The Concerned Ohio River Residents held a press event Monday where they expressed their concern about elevated levels of radioactivity discovered in soil samples taken outside the Austin Master frack waste management plant in Martins Ferry.
Members of the group and their supporters met up at the Fodor Memorial Park on Monday evening and discussed recent findings. The group obtained soil samples from multiple areas within the Source Water Protection Area in the city, had them tested at a certified laboratory and analyzed by local scientific consultants.
Beverly Reed, a community organizer with CORR, said they had the samples tested for concentrations of radium 226 and other radioisotopes. She said the soil samples taken outside the plant, located near the schools’ football field and water treatment plant, revealed radiation levels more than 10 times higher than background levels.
“Activities ranged from 3.76 for the sample taken furthest away from the facility to 14.66 for the sample taken closest to the entrance. The results for Lead-214 and Bismuth-214 showed similar trends with activities approaching or exceeding regulatory limits,” she said, adding that samples taken at the park and cemetery had “acceptable background levels.”
Reed said the contamination outside the facility posed a threat to the surrounding area’s drinking water.
“So they were 14.6 (Picocuries per gram — a measure of radioactivity in 1 gram of material) so those levels are concerning because it’s way more than any person should be exposed to,” she said. “The oil and gas waste stream contains naturally occurring radioactive material so when they bring that stuff up deep from within the earth to the surface, it contains radionuclides which are toxic to our bodies and can cause things like cancer and other ailments that’s why it’s important to pay attention what’s in our environment.”
Reed said they mailed out results of their findings to numerous government entities including the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with hopes of further studies being conducted as well as ODNR, which regulates the facility, suspending the faciltiy’s permit and issuing a Stop Work Order.
“We want them to invoke their law and do their own testing of the whole entire area, and we want the USEPA to deem this site as a Superfund site so it can be cleaned up and properly monitored so we can preserve our water so we don’t get into a crisis mode,” she said.
A few supporters also spoke in favor of the group’s intentions. Marla Brokaw, councilwoman in Adena, said after hearing organizers speak at a village meeting she has since followed their work.
“The soil samples they presented were especially a concern for me, I’m an epidemiologist by profession so when they showed me that the radium levels were as high as they were, it was a particular concern. I think it’s a public health risk at this point. Like Bev said, if radium is breathed into the lungs it can remain there for months. It will gradually enter the bloodstream and through all parts of the body while accumulating in the bones,” she said, adding that being exposed for a long period of time can put people at an increased risk for several diseases such as lymphoma, bone cancer and certain blood formation diseases.
Brokaw said she considers the results of the tests a “public health threat” that should be further investigated by the proper entities.
Michael Bianconi, Pease Township trustee, also expressed his support for CORR’s efforts and a desire to ensure the water and air remains clean.
Ray Canter, a city resident and member of CORR, said two of his relatives — his sister and brother-in-law — died within the last few years from the same type of cancer. He said the doctors expressed that the cause of cancer was environmental.
“That’s why I want you people to know what’s going on,” he added.
Reed said she urges local officials to become more involved, examine the information CORR has discovered and “use it.”
“We invited the city to meet with us before we related these results to the public and they declined, and we need the city to do everything they can to protect us. Ultimately the citizens can only do so much. The city can enforce its ordinances and its Source Water Protection Plan,” she said
She said the group’s ultimate goal is to help protect the water and air and encourage agencies to do the same.
“We wouldn’t be standing here in this situation if the state agencies would have done their job. … Now we know the information and let’s move forward in a positive way. That is our call to the agencies and the citizens,” she said
A report of the results can be found on the CORR website, concernedohioriverresidents.org.
Photo courtesy of Times Leader newspaper.