Op-Ed

It’s wise to worry about landfill’s toxic impact

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In the column, “Landfill rules OK; need to stop illegal dumpers” the author criticizes community columnist Jillean McCommons as being “not well informed on the rich and assorted flavors of radioactive decay” in her June 5 commentary, “Illegal radioactive waste endangers Estill, everyone downstream.”

Anyone characterizing radioactive waste that causes lung cancer as having “rich and assorted flavors” has never lost someone they loved to lung cancer due to long-term exposure to the poisonous gas produced by the decay of Radium 226.

The only thing worse than crying “fire” in a crowded theater, when there is no fire, is suggesting there is nothing to worry about when there is.

The author further asserts “the N0RMS are well along their decay curves.” Radium 226 contained in the fracking waste has a half-life of 1,620 years. The remaining half-life is many times longer. How can anyone seriously claim to know where, in its waste cycle, the waste dumped in the Blue Ridge Landfill is?

The author further states “Fugitive transport, where the NORMS leach, may eventually be an issue and that calls for long-term monitoring.”

A more reliable statement of the long-term threat posed by leaching is this warning by Christopher Goddard, administrator of Marcum-Wallace Hospital in Irvine. In a letter dated July 8, 1997 about the delayed effect of exposure to Radium 226 and radon produced by its decay, he wrote: “Years from now when the effects are evident and manifested, it will be too late to act.”

McCommons should be commended for drawing attention to the long-term threat posed by the illegal dumping to all of the counties downstream on the Kentucky River from the landfill, including Madison, Fayette and others.

The author refers to this threat as “a one-off, small scale, localized NORM crime at Blue Ridge.”

If the poisonous waste had been secretly dumped and buried in a front yard in Lexington, would it be considered “a small scale crime?”

The people of Estill County and their allies are determined to do all that is possible to remediate this threat.

Everyone who wants to support this effort can show their support by attending a rally to be held in Irvine on July 16 at 5 p.m. at the Estill County High School on Route 89.

Robert W. Shaffer of Berea is founding chairman of the Estill Development Alliance.

At issue: June 27 commentary by Will Herrick, “Landfill rules OK; need to stop illegal dumpers

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