Kentucky officials last month endorsed a plan to leave radioactive fracking waste, illegally dumped in a landfill in Estill County, in place rather than requiring its removal and proper disposal in a facility designed to contain such waste.
While it would be possible to make a sound technical case for removal, I submit the strongest case can be made morally.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines moral as: “1. Of or concerned with the judgment principle of right or wrong in relation to human action and character.”
Accordingly, please imagine the following incident:
One night while you sleep, a neighbour, without warning comes and dumps a truckload of radioactive waste into a large hole in your backyard. The waste contains Radium 226 with a half-life of 1,600 years, meaning it will take that long for one-half of the buried waste to undergo radioactive decay. As it decays it produces radon gas that causes lung cancer.
When you identify the guilty party, he says, I’ll take care of it. I will do my best to make it safe, but you will be better off not trying to remove it.
And he gives you one fearful illustration after another of what might happen during removal. He doesn’t mention that there are experts who develop and successfully implement removal plans. Nor does he tell you that the federal government is presently safely destroying highly poisonous nerve gas stored in the nearby Army Depot.
He does mention how much it will cost him to remove the waste, perhaps hoping you will feel sorry for him.
You turn to government officials for help. They say we tend to agree with your neighbor who thinks the waste should be left where it is and checked carefully. They prevail.
Thereafter each night, when you go to bed and turn out the lights, you are reminded of what is buried in your backyard, barely beginning its 1,600 year life.
Later, when you try to sell your home, potential buyers hesitate when they learn what is buried in your backyard.
All those who had any part in the disposal of the cancer-causing waste in the Estill County landfill participated in an immoral act. We must do everything possible to right this wrong.
Robert W. Shaffer is a member of Concerned Citizens of Estill County.