The Alliance For A Clean Environment

Printable Version

From: David Ritter
Policy Analyst
Public Citizen's Critical Mass
Energy & Environment Program
215 Pennsylvania Ave., SE
Washington, DC 20003

By any plausible analysis, the Pottstown Landfill has served as an effective conduit for radioactive waste generators to creatively disperse and transmit radiation to the residents of Pottstown and surrounding communities.

The Waste Management facility has done an outstanding job of unloading industry's nuclear burden, and allowing various forms of radiation to waft through the air, percolate into the soil, and seep into the water supply.

Now that the landfill is a de facto radioactive waste dump, minus the license, Waste Management would like to formalize its commitment to local radioactive waste generators that are desperately running out of time and space. Current laws make it occasionally difficult for Pottstown Landfill to openly accept this waste.

This presents a quandary for Waste Management, which has thus proposed an age-old solution - "The rules don't work for us, so why don't we change the rules?"

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection seems eager to help and, following the example of federal so-called "regulatory' agencies, deems it appropriate to devote its bureaucratic, financial and intellectual resources to answering the question "How much radioactive waste can we allow to be released?" The more traditional motivating question of such an agency - "What will it take to prevent any exposures to the public and to safeguard public health?" - has been all but abandoned.

Entities that create nuclear waste never give serious consideration to how they will or can isolate and monitor such waste for its entire hazardous lifetime, or how it might impact those chronically exposed to it, like the residents of Pottstown, for instance. When we talk about those radioisotopes with half-lives of thousands or millions of years, and the generator of the waste is a private business looking only to its next quarterly report, let alone 50 years hence, it is a deadly combination. If the waste can be dumped in an unlicensed community landfill, at a cheap price, and then forgotten, what sane businessman would ever suggest that the waste generator do otherwise?

On the receiving end exists the Pottstown Landfill, and its current owner/operator Waste Management has the slick business sense to see a massive opportunity for profit, via a unique permit to take nuclear waste.

But nuclear waste should not be viewed as a commodity. It is dangerous, deadly waste that must be handled responsibly. Any honest, independent member of the public recognizes that nuclear materials should not exist in the local landfill with old phone books, in the air they breathe, in the water they drink, and certainly not in any regular, everyday consumer products that they come into contact with. The perverse notion that "just a little" radiation won't hurt anyone is patently absurd. The current scheme is a dangerous, trend-setting policy that will open a back door to allow massive amounts of radiation to be dumped on the already abused population of the Pottstown area, or even "recycled" into products.

Those of us opposed to such lunacy are often misrepresented as trying to prevent cancer treatments. We are not. We hear much distracting, misleading nonsense about the radioactivity in bananas, kitty litter, and tissues, or that we have delusions of a "radiation-free world." No, we happily eat bananas, and we know plenty about cosmic rays and radon. We're simply against avoidable radiation exposures being shoved down our throat. Instead, attention should turn toward the proverbial elephant in Pottstown's living room, the Limerick nuclear reactor. Sooner or later, this reactor (and several others in the area) will shut down. When it does, all or most of the reactor will be dumped. If the Pottstown landfill hangs out a 'radioactive vacancy' sign, it stands to reason that the hot remains of Limerick will go there, providing a radioactive tombstone for the nuclear legacy thrust upon the unwilling Pottstown public.

Public Citizen strongly supports local community efforts to prevent the nuclear and waste disposal industries from making easy money at the expense of public health. We insist that the precautionary principle be stringently applied, and that radioactive wastes be contained and isolated, not deregulated and dumped upon the public in various forms.

For More Information:

landfill radiation

P.O. Box 3063
Stowe, PA 19464

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