The Alliance For A Clean Environment
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RADIATION – Pottstown Landfill
Why must gases be tested for radiation?

In 1985 Waste Management’s own “glowing” tests indicated a high level of radiation in the Pottstown Landfill leachate.

There was evidence of radioactivity in leachate as early as the late 1980’s, but the tests were not publicly disclosed by the landfill operator, according to Mark Scott, Berks County Commissioner. Results of those tests were leaked to him and others by a confidential informant, formally associated with the landfill.

DEP tests detected high levels of beta radiation associated with the decay of thorium, cesium, potassium, and two byproducts of uranium.

If the Pottstown Landfill were licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, inspectors most likely would have addressed this radiation exposure.

One report obtained by the Pottstown Mercury, of DEP 1996 leachate testing for radiation, showed 776 picocuries of beta radiation in one liter of leachate. If Federal regulations call for between four and six picocuries of radiation in drinking water, what does this mean? Several samples from the limited DEP radiation testing turned up radiation 155 times greater than allowed in drinking water.

If no one is required to treat the leachate for radiation, then that radiation must be in the river and in the drinking water, and could also be in the landfill gases.

Neither the Nuclear Regulatory Commission nor the Environmental Protection Agency who set standards, will claim any regulatory powers over the Pottstown Landfill. They defer all power to DEP, which has allowed radioactive sludges and other radioactive waste to be dumped in the Pottstown Landfill. DEP and other regulatory agencies have approved radioactive materials to be dumped in the Pottstown Landfill and now want to wash their hands of any responsibility for them.

It appears that the Pottstown Landfill has been accepting tons of low-level radioactive waste for well over a decade. The DEP does not require the landfill to measure levels of radioactive waste. The landfill has no radiation monitors at its gates and there is no way to even make a conclusive realistic assessment of the amounts of radiation contained in the Pottstown Landfill. DEP does not regularly check to see how the waste – which has been coming to the dump since at least 1983 at the rate of about 2000 tons per month – is buried.

In 1983 the NRC and DEP granted permission for Cabot of Boyertown to dump up to 35,000 tons annually of mud-like industrial waste that contained low levels of uranium and thorium, at the Pottstown Landfill. As of April of 1996, Cabot had been taking an average of 2,000 tons per month of its uranium, thorium sludge waste to the Pottstown Landfill since 1983.

Radioactive sludge from Interstate Nuclear Services in Royersford, which cleans the uniforms worn by workers at the Limerick Power Plant, has also been dumped at the Pottstown Landfill. It is stated by a DEP employee, that radioactive reeds, with a 30 year half life, produced because of INS sludge, after a dispute between the NRC and DEP , were also eventually dumped at the Pottstown Landfill.

Radioactive waste could have come from ash dumping by a medical waste incinerator from Delaware County and from massive dumping of medical waste, such as 894, 000 tons in 1994 alone.

According to independent landfill consultant, Anthony Mitchell, strontium 90, the radioactive waste from Three Mile Island nuclear plant meltdown in 1979, was permitted by the NRC to be disposed of at the landfill.

Knowing all this and possibly a lot more, DEP does not require radioactive testing at the Pottstown Landfill, because they do not consider any of the radioactive waste accepted by the landfill as radioactive. Why not? This defies all logic. Does DEP want us to believe because they rename it, that the radiation will magically disappear or that it will not harm our health?

Ron Furlan, DEP’s regional waste management program director has gone on record, April 22, 1996, as stating “Waste Management”s solid-waste permit does not approve the landfilling of radioactive waste” and “Pottstown Landfill cannot take any radioactive materials – and doesn’t under DEP guidelines.” These statements were made by Mr. Furlan after enormous amounts of radioactive wastes were permitted to be dumped in the Pottstown Landfill by DEP and other agencies for well over a decade. How could Mr. Furlan ignore the evidence of radioactive dumping and make such a statement? Could he be trying to cover up a very serious mistake by DEP and others?

In a September 29, 1998 letter to ACE members Mr. Furlan stated, “the radioactivity found at the landfill site is attributable to natural sources, the levels detected are considered not to be a risk to the public.” Is this the height of ignorance, arrogance, or deceit? We would like every single researched and scientific document to back up Mr. Furlan’s statement, or we want a public retraction of that statement. Why is government doing this again? Remember Three Mile Island? Government and industry spokespeople repeatedly assured the public that no one was harmed. However, the government’s own health data tell quite a different story.

Phone conversation with Donna Cuthbert on October 16, 1998. Ron Furlan while trying to make the natural sources argument on radiation, now admitted radioactive materials were dumped, but claimed allowable levels were not a risk. When asked about the effects of long term accumulation, he made the statement that DEP doesn’t deal in accumulation and that logic has nothing to do with it. Ron Fulan, “We don’t look at accumulation.” (ACE wants to know- if large, legal amounts of radioactive dumping is permitted over many years, couldn’t this radiation concentrate so that at the end you have much more than you are allowed to have)? Mr. Furlan also stated “Radiation is in everything.” This may be true, but irrelevant to the issue of large amounts of radioactive dumping at Pottstown Landfill, which could be a major factor in some of our serious health problems facing Pottstown.

    1. Whether or not the radioactive materials dumped at the Pottstown Landfill were from natural sources is not the issue. The real issue is how the concentration of all this radioactive dumping has affected and will affect the health of our community.

    2. Human harm from low-level exposures to radiation has been studies by bomb survivor data from Nagasaki, Japan, since 1945. This data shows there is no safe dose of radiation and the lowest doses have caused the greatest cancer increases per unit of radiation. Japanese data also reveals children and infants are more sensitive to the effects of low levels of ionizing radiation.

    3. More recent human data is provided by accidents that released large amounts of ionizing radiation at Chernoble, 1986, Three-Mile Island 1979, and Savannah River, 1970. These accidents indicate that the lowest doses of ionizing radiation cause the greatest damage per unit of radiation. Today’s allowable government limits for human exposure to ionizing radiation will allow possibly about 30 times more deaths than our government officially admits. Infant mortality rates have increased by tremendously in every case.

Tests have linked low level radiation to leukemia. The Montgomery County Health Department found the greater Pottstown area to have doubled leukemia compared to the rest of the entire state. Mr. Gresko, who lives next to the landfill, reported to DEP on 3-11-97 that his 17 yr. old son was diagnosed with a type of leukemia that can be caused by low-level radiation.

Infant mortality has increased from low level radiation exposures. Pottstown has elevated infant mortality.


P.O. Box 3063
Stowe, PA 19464

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