Estill County Radioactive Waste Response

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News of radioactive waste in Estill County, has people asking all kinds of questions. How much radioactive waste is there? Is it affecting the people who live, work and go to school there? That’s what Irvine and Estill County leaders are trying to determine, after being blind-sided by the allegations on Thursday.

For 71 years Vivian Smith has walked outside, to be greeted by her family’s land. For around the last 40 years, she’s also been greeted by the Blue Ridge Landfill.

“It’s a stones throw away from us,” said Smith.

Still, for her and her family, this is home.

“Nobody would choose to live close to a landfill, but I was here first,” said Smith.

Until this week, she said she trusted her neighbors.

“We have always been a little concerned. But with this, is to me very, very dangerous,” said Smith.

City and county officials are surprised themselves.

“We are very disappointed,” said Estill County Judge Executive Wallace Taylor. “There are so many levels of radiation and we are trying to determine what level this is, at this point.”

Estill County Emergency Management and county leaders said at best guess 117 truck-loads, around 1,500 tons, of radioactive material may have been dumped at the landfill between July and November. The waste is all from out of state, which is a county ordinance and state violation itself. County leaders warn that the business will be issued a notice of violation, and could face some steep fines.

“We also can impose fines on them, or possibly even shut them down,” said Taylor.

However, this early in the investigation, the priority is simple.

“The first thing we are trying to do right now, is make sure our community is safe,” said Taylor.

The Blue Ridge Landfill is located directly across the street from both the Estill County High School and the Estill County Middle School. On Saturday morning, state health inspectors will be out there to determine any radiation residue at the schools and make sure they are safe. The County said they are sending their own private investigators to inspect the schools, landfill, and water in the area on Sunday.

“I hope I don’t go up there and see my fish glowing in the dark ha ha,” said Smith.

A joke, with an underlying layer of truth. Smith said she’s had three types of cancer, and wonders what else has been dumped nearby. Hopefully soon, she’ll know.

“We want to get to the bottom of this. Get some answers, due to the school kids and our health around here too,” said Smith.

The Cabinet of Health and Family Services said there is no need to panic, no radiation has leaked above ground and they don’t believe it’s an immediate health risk. However, what about over time?

“It’s not suitable to go into that landfill. So, we are going to take actions to make sure the landfill takes whatever actions necessary to make it safe,” said Anthony Hatton, the Director of the Department for Environmental Protection, within the Kentucky Division of Waste Management.

Experts said the radioactive material is not like an X-ray, people can only be affected if it gets on them, or inside of them. Therefore, something as simple as a thick sheet of paper could be a safe shield, and for now, the standard liner at the landfill will do.

There will be a public forum Tuesday night at 6 p.m. at the Estill County High School. People will be able to ask the county, state, and possibly even landfill officials questions about the alleged violations.

 

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