Ohio uranium plant contamination lawsuit dismissed

AP News
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Posted: Mar 26, 2011 4:59 PM
Ohio uranium plant contamination lawsuit dismissed

Residents living near a Cold War-era nuclear weapons facility in southern Ohio settled a two-decade-old federal lawsuit over alleged hazardous chemical contamination in their neighborhoods, a lawyer for the plant's operators said Saturday.

The undisclosed settlement was "substantially less" than the $300 million lawsuit and didn't include all the plaintiffs, said attorney Gail Ford, who represented Divested Atomic Corp. and other operators of the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon, about 65 miles south of Columbus.

Neighbors filed suit in 1990 and alleged that the facility, which was used to produce enriched uranium until 2001, released hazardous substances into the surrounding environment, thus decreasing their property values and causing them emotional harm as they worried about adverse health effects.

Ford said the plant's operators deny any wrongdoing or liability.

The Columbus Dispatch reported nearly 170 plaintiffs were involved in the settlement.

"These clients have waited a long time for a resolution, and I'm glad they're going to get something," Louise Roselle, an attorney who represented some residents, told the newspaper. "It's been a long 21 years."

The defendants, which included Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. and Lockheed Martin Energy Systems Inc., are satisfied with the deal, Ford said.

"It's simply a settlement to terminate the litigation and get the claims resolved after all these years," she said Saturday.

Roselle told the Dispatch that the lawsuit dragged on because other cases affected it, as did changes in judges, in the lawsuit's class-action status and in the ownership of a company that ran the plant.

Plaintiff Sarah Chandler said she's not surprised the case lasted so long.

"We were fighting the government, and I didn't really think anything would come out of it," said Chandler, 75, who has lived in Piketon since 1958, a few years after the plant began production.

She blames the facility for health problems that affected her family and friends in the area, including several relatives who had cancer. Chandler said she doesn't think the "small settlement" makes up for that.

All claims in the case have been dismissed, Ford said. It's possible plaintiffs who didn't settle _ it was unclear how many there were _ could choose to pursue other legal action.