One Mile From Home ®
By Gary Zalimeni
One Mile from Home: Beginnings (Part One), Published March 2015 (Provides links to all previously published One Mile from Home Articles.
Part Five. Conclusion & Lessons Learned
The three month health study done by the Ohio Dept. of Health was conclusive, it determined that the instance of brain and central nervous system cancers within one mile of the RMI uranium extrusion plant were as much as 100 times above the national average.
Back in the late 1970’s news reporting was just what the name implied, the reporting of news events. Unlike the media’s mantra in 2015, personal opinions were mostly nonexistent. Our local paper, the Ashtabula Star Beacon, was very biased in favor of the RMI. They did their best to sugarcoat the real story in order to protect the interests of big business and the Federal government. They made little mention of the results of the health study and the extremely high cancer rate in our community.
We were fighting a never ending battle against the system and public apathy and if I had to choose which was more debilitating it would have to be the latter. Without immense public support you are just a voice in the wilderness, which is exactly the way I felt. Don’t misunderstand, I was gratified that I was able to expose the story, which made national headlines on more than one occasion, but very saddened to learn what little concern the public had for something so important to their own well being. My dear friend Gen. Lambros said something to me that I have never forgotten, he said, “in order to wake people up you have to hit them as hard as you can alongside the head.” Obviously, Gen. Lambros meant that figuratively and not literally but I got the point very well. Gen. Lambros’ statement turned out to be exactly correct.
It took 28 years for the cleanup of the RMI Uranium Extrusion plant to be completed (Nov. 2006). There were no fines levied against the RMI Co. in spite of the fact that, according to Ohio EPA estimates, over 6000 lbs. of enriched Uranium and Plutonium were released into the air, land and water.
The facility flushed their radioactive waste water into Fields Brook (designated a high priority Superfund site), which eventually flowed into the Ashtabula River. A mile downstream the river flowed into Lake Erie where the city’s water intake pipe was located. Does it take a rocket scientist to realize that the city’s water supply contained radioactive waste?
The cleanup efforts were massive. The RMI was on a 32-acre site and every inch of dirt, rumored to be a depth of 30 ft., was removed and hauled to a nuclear dumpsite in the state of Washington. The 25 buildings on site were dismantled and also taken to a nuclear waste dumpsite. The entire length of Fields Brook had to be completely dredged. The Ashtabula River was also dredged.
I lost my father to lymphoma, my mother to brain cancer and my wife is a breast cancer survivor. I can’t even count my neighbors and friends that succumbed to the same disease. Writing about this story was very difficult because, having left Ashtabula in 2005, I’ve tried to forget about the tragedy and senseless illness and loss of lives in my hometown.
The experience taught me that the truth really does matter, it disinfects the rotting effect of lies and misinformation. I realize that you must not fear public scrutiny in defense of the truth. You must be always vigilant and wary of special interests and never hesitate to question authority. Speak out, shout out if you have to, as long as you are on the side of truth.
I can only hope that the citizens of Scottsdale speak loudly and clearly to city and county representatives and say “no more malls, no more houses, no more roads, no more development!”
In my corner of paradise, far away from the nightmare I left behind in Ohio, I relish the serenity of our desert preserve. This land, which is in exactly the same state as it was since the beginning of time cannot itself cry out and say “no more, please, please no more forever.” It’s fate is in YOUR hands, not the hands of city government, not in the hands of state commissions, YOUR hands!
Do we need more malls, subdivisions and major development to make us happy? Are we only kidding ourselves into believing that more bright lights, hot concrete and stucco walls are more rewarding than the preservation of beautiful, untouched wild land?
Let your feelings be known and let the truth set you free.
Note from Author, Additional Resources
The RMI uranium extrusion plant is one of three plants they have in the Ashtabula area. One of the others is called the Sodium plant.
Video: I recently discovered a Youtube post of the RMI Sodium plant. I thought it might be pertenant to show the horrible conditions that the RMI allowed their employees to work under. If you watch the entire video it is downright scary. I’ll leave it up to you whether to post it in with the story if you think it pertenant. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIBb5u8GQj4
River Cleanup Articles: http://www.epa.gov/glnpo/sediment/legacy/ashtabula/
Background Report, RMI Extrusion Plant: http://www.containment.fsu.edu/cd/content/pdf/379.pdf
Fields Brook Dredging: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/nepa/FieldsBrookNEPA/documents/EA.pdf
One Mile from Home: Beginnings (Part One), Published March 2015 (Provides links to all previously published “One Mile from Home” articles.