By Theodora Filis
Most recently, Patty was the focus of an article written by John Emshwiller, Wall Street Journal, titled: Waste Land: One Town's Atomic Legacy: A $500 Million Cleanup:
“She has been praised as a community protector and criticized as a troublemaker unnecessarily stoking local fears and potentially hurting the local economy. "She continues to stir things up," says David Heffernan Sr., president of the Apollo borough council, adding it could deter companies from investing in the area. Ms. Ameno argues she had no choice: "You have to have a mad, junkyard-dog mentality in order to deal with this." Read entire WSJ report here: http://on.wsj.com/1h5HSyF
Most commercial nuclear power plants release gaseous and liquid radiological effluents into the environment as a byproduct of the Chemical Volume Control System, which is monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The total amount of radioactivity released by a power plant depends on the plant, the regulatory requirements, and the plant's performance.
Ameno grew up across the street from the Apollo plant located in Western Pennsylvania's Parks Township, in the Apollo area. Her father, the late John Ameno, owned and operated a deli frequented by the Apollo plant workers. It was there he witnessed, first hand, the problems both workers and residents experienced as a result of the plant. It was John Ameno's hope that his daughter, Patty, find out exactly what was going on inside the plant, in order to help his patrons.
Babcock & Wilcox, the Atlantic Richfield Co, and their predecessor, the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corp. (NUMEC) operated two plants in Apollo for nearly 40 years, producing nuclear fuel to power submarines, nuclear reactors and other nuclear products. Ameno fought for, and won, special status from the federal government to compensate former employees who became ill as a result of working in those plants. Former NUMEC workers have received more than $28 million from the government, to date.
The two plants are currently owned by BMX Technologies, and consists of ten trenches containing waste and soil contaminated with radiological waste materials. The volume of potentially contaminated waste material in the trenches is estimated at 24,300 cubic yards. Uranium, thorium, americium and plutonium contaminated waste has been identified. Uranium and thorium contaminated wastes consisting of process wastes, equipment, scrap and trash from the nearby Apollo nuclear fuel fabrication facility were disposed of in the SLDA trenches between 1961 and 1970.
The uranium in the trenches is present at various levels of enrichment from highly depleted to highly enriched. Americium and plutonium, whose presence is attributed to storage of equipment used in the adjoining Parks Facility, have been detected in surface soils adjacent to a single trench. NUMEC previously conducted disposal of radioactive waste materials in accordance with Atomic Energy Commission (predecessor to the current NRC) regulations. BWX Technologies is licensed by the NRC to properly maintain the site to ensure the protection of workers and the public.
Western Pennsylvania's Parks Township, in the Apollo area, is home to a growing number of citizens reporting serious illnesses and even death, believed to have been caused by exposure to radiation contamination from the two former nuclear enriching facilities, Babcock & Wilcox Power Generation Group and The Atlantic Richfield Company. The health effects that have been linked to radiation exposure vary, but can almost all be severe and even life-threatening. Radiation exposure increases the likelihood of developing numerous cancers, including but not limited to cancer of the following: Adrenal glands; Appendix; Bladder; Bone; Brain; Breast; Cervix; Colon; Esophagus; Kidney; Leukemia; Lung; Ovaries; Pancreas; Prostate; Rectum; Thyroid and parathyroid; Skin; Stomach; Testes; Uterus; and other rare organ and tissue cancers.
Documents generated from plant operations in the 1960s-1990s show that both regularly emitted radiation at levels significantly exceeding federal regulatory limits. At one point, a radiation emission was documented to have been greater than 200,000 times the federal limit, the approximate equivalent to receiving 20,000 x-rays in a single dose according to occupational and public health specialist, Dr. Jim Melius. Additionally, these facilities allegedly buried hundreds of barrels containing radioactive plutonium and other nuclear-contaminated items. These containers were left outside for decades, allowing their contents, radioactive waste, to pollute the surrounding groundwater and soil.
Patty Ameno continues to fight for her community's health and safety. In January 2010, Ameno spearheaded a second federal civil action suit with MotleyRice attorney's for the people of her community.