Massive Underground Landfill Fire Nears Radioactive Waste

A massive, smoldering, underground fire at a St. Louis-area landfill is on the verge of coming in contact with radioactive waste dumped decades ago, and no one seems to know how to deal with it.  That’s what I learned during a public forum about the issue Thursday night in the St. Louis suburb of Maryland Heights.

Rather than rehash who said what at the forum, I direct your attention to reports by KSDK reporter Grant Bissell (above) and Leisa Zigman (below) which combine to offer a snapshot of the most-pressing concerns of residents in North St. Louis County.

In short, a massive underground fire — which covers a subterranean area the size of three football fields — at the Bridgeton Landfill is about to come in contact with radioactive waste dumped decades earlier at the adjacent West Lake Landfill.

Why was radioactive waste dumped at the landfill?  Unbeknownst to many area residents, St. Louis was home to Mallinckrodt Chemical Works, a company that was the first to process uranium for use in our nation’s first atomic bombs as part of the World War II-era Manhattan Project.  After running out of space for the radioactive waste from their processing efforts, they began shipping it to other area locations, including the West Lake Landfill.  It remains there today.  On the surface of the Missouri River flood plain.  Exposed to the elements.

Click to read more reports in my coverage about radioactive waste in the St. Louis area.

Click to read more reports in my coverage about radioactive waste in the St. Louis area.

Aside from the long-term public health crisis involving what many residents describe as “cancer clusters” and other deadly affects of long-term radiation exposure, the most-pressing immediate concern is the fact no one on the planet seems to have experience dealing with this dangerous intersection where fire and radioactive waste collide.

As I stated in my most recent post, RADIOACTIVE WASTE CRISIS Like Plot From A Horror Film, I’ll be following the issues in North County closely.  Meanwhile, though I cannot attest to the accuracy of all of the information the websites below contain, I recommend you visit them to learn more about the potential scope of this crisis:

Coldwater Creek, Just the Facts Facebook Page;

Coldwater Creek Facts;

St. Louis Radiation Waste Legacy;

Weldon Spring Facebook Page; and

West Lake Landfill Facebook Page.

UPDATE 1/31/2014 at 7:09 p.m. Central:  Many of the members of the groups above are particularly in seeing the Army Corps of Engineers replace the EPA as the lead agency on cleaning up the radioactive waste sites in St. Louis.  If this news is any indication, I’d say they’re on the right track.

Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August (Oct '11) and THE CLAPPER MEMO (May '13). To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.

Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August (Oct ’11) and THE CLAPPER MEMO (May ’13). To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.

KSDK-TV to Highlight Radiation Dangers in St Louis Area

Uphill BattleNEWS ALERT:  Barely one year after I scooped the local news media with my 2012 report, Missouri Health Agency Officials Refuse to Answer Questions About New Weldon Spring Cancer Report, I’ve learned KSDK-TV will broadcast an investigative report on the alleged impact radioactive waste sites are having on people’s health in the St. Louis area.

According to a promotional spot I watched on the NBC affiliate, investigative reporter Leisa Zigman’s first report on the topic is scheduled to air Thursday.

If you’re interested in this topic, I encourage you to read the reports in my series, Uphill Battle for Answers, and then let your elected officials know you want answers — especially if you live in an area close to one of the St. Louis area sites where radiation hazards exist.

"Three Days In August" Promotional PhotoBob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice, a nonfiction book that’s available in paperback and ebook via most online booksellers, including Amazon.com. His second book, The CLAPPER MEMO, is coming soon was released May 2013.

Do Residents Living Near Weldon Spring Site Deserve Compensation for Radiation Exposure?

Do residents living in neighborhoods near a former EPA Superfund site 30 miles west of St. Louis deserve compensation for being exposed to radioactive materials?  The answer to that question could very well be “Yes.”

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Located adjacent State Highway 94 in a once-rural section of St. Charles County, Mo., the Weldon Spring (Mo.) Site was contaminated during the production of 2, 4, 6 – trinitrotoluene (TNT) and 2, 4 and 2,6 Dinitrotoluene (DNT) by the U.S. Department of Army from 1941 to 1945.  It was the enrichment of uranium ore and thorium processing that took place from 1958 to 1966, however, that resulted in workers at the Atomic Energy Commission site being exposed to dangerously-high levels of radiation.  In 1987, the site made the list of the EPA’s most-hazardous properties.  NOTE:  More details about the site’s history, according to the DOE, can be found here.

The Weldon Spring Site has a lot in common with other trouble-filled sites under the purview of the federal government — in this case, the U.S. Department of Energy.  One is the Fernald Site 22 miles north of Cincinnati.

Though it operated on a smaller scale than its Show-Me State sister site, workers there are said to have performed largely the same tasks and, on occasion, handled overflow from Weldon Spring.

According to a report in The New York Times, those same workers were parties to a 1994 settlement with DOE that guarantees them lifetime benefits expected to cost the federal government at least $20 million.  Similarly, according to a news release April 4, workers at the Missouri site were parties to a settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor that has paid them more than $39 million in compensation to date.

When one compares how residents living near the two sites have fared, one finds Ohioans better off — at least financially — than their neighbors almost 400 miles to the west.

This sign greets visitors as they enter the complex surrounding the “rock pile” at the Weldon Spring Site.

In 1989, according to the same Times article, some 14,000 residents living near the Fernald Site reached a $78 million settlement with DOE.  Conversely, no lawsuits have been filed and no settlements have been reached on behalf of any of the tens of thousands of residents living near the Missouri site.

Though officials with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services have, for more than three months, refused to answer questions about their controversial 2011 Weldon Spring Cancer Report and have done virtually nothing to inform the media or the public — not even the people living in five zip codes where leukemia and leukemia death rates were studied — about the findings of their report, I suspect personal-injury lawyers will find at least two statements in the report too tempting to pass up.

The first statement (below) echoes bureaucratic doublespeak:

Based on updated data from the 5-zip code area, the total number of leukemia deaths and the total number of leukemia deaths in those age 65 and older appears to be significantly higher than expected (Table 4 updated) but the actual leukemia death rates in the 5-zip code area were not significantly different from the statewide leukemia death rates (Table B).

The second statement (below) appears a short while later in the report and leaves one feeling perplexed:

Based on this analysis, we have concluded that there is no increased environmental risk of developing leukemia in the five ZIP-code area during 1996-2004 over that of the entire state.

Sadly, four out of five dentists who chew gum Missouri state legislators I contacted about the report seem inclined to ignore it completely, to discount it’s findings, to procrastinate about it and/or to simply shoot the messenger — me! — delivering questions about it.  Regardless of their predictable election-year reactions, the controversy is not likely to go away.

As I reported in an update following my attendance — as an observer, not a prospective client — at a litigant-recruitment meeting in St. Louis two months ago, the same group of New York City-based lawyers who represented first responders after 9/11 has already filed one lawsuit related to radiation exposure in the Coldwater Creek area of St. Louis.  In addition, they’ve dropped some super-sized hints about the possibility of even more lawsuits — perhaps involving residents living near the Weldon Spring Site!

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that those attorneys are holding their second Coldwater Creek “rainmaking session” Wednesday at 6 p.m. Central at the Renaissance St. Louis Airport Hotel.  The graphic at right holds the details.

CRASS COMMERCIAL MESSAGE:  Order a copy of my book, Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice.

Missouri State Legislators Not Inclined to Place High Priority on 2011 Weldon Spring Cancer Report

March has been a miserable month for me when it comes to dealing with Republican Party officials in my own backyard.

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While most of my interaction about “things Republican” has revolved around the 2012 St. Charles County (Mo.) Republican Presidential Caucus, other interactions have involved GOP members of the Missouri House of Representatives.

During the first week of March, I made multiple attempts to contact several of those representatives with questions I had regarding the “2011 Weldon Spring Cancer Inquiry Report,” a four-page document published by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services that was the subject of an exclusive article I broke Jan. 23.

The Weldon Spring Site in St. Charles County, Mo., was contaminated during the production of 2, 4, 6 – trinitrotoluene (TNT) and 2, 4 and 2,6 Dinitrotoluene (DNT) by the U.S. Department of Army from 1941 to 1945 and from enrichment of uranium ore and thorium processing by the Atomic Energy Commission from 1958 to 1966, according to an earlier MDHSS document, the 2005 Weldon Spring Cancer Report.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  To learn more background information about this matter, you might want to read my article, Missouri Health Agency Officials Refuse to Answer Questions About New Weldon Spring Cancer Report, before reading the rest of this piece.

Those initial contact attempts, made between March 2 and March 6, involved sending three separate Facebook messages to five state representatives – Kurt Bahr of O’Fallon, Kathie Conway of St. Charles, Chuck Gatschenberger of Lake Saint Louis, Mark Parkinson of St. Peters and Anne Zerr of St. Charles.  My goal was to find out what each is doing, or planning to do, to obtain answers for their constituents about the controversial report.

Reps. Kurt Bahr and Kathie Conway

To their credit, Representatives Bahr and Conway replied soon after being contacted.  Both admitted they were not extremely familiar with the topic, both explained they were very busy with legislative matters in Jefferson City, and both gave me the initial impression that the matter isn’t likely to become a “front-burner issue” anytime soon.

Sadly, three of the state representatives – Gatschenberger, Parkinson and Zerr (shown below) — chose not to reply, leading me to come up with several possible reasons for their failures to respond:

• They place a low priority on the health and well-being of their constituents who live in the shadow of the Weldon Spring Site 30 miles west of St. Louis;

• They haven’t been asked often enough by their constituents to look into the matter;

• They place a low priority on inquiries from non-mainstream media reporters like me;

• They don’t want to have their names attached to such a potentially-volatile political “hot potato” during an election year;

• They believe ignorance is bliss; or

• Last but not least, it’s possible they don’t check their Facebook messages very often.

On March 7, I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt regarding the Facebook possibility and send the same basic inquiry to all five state representatives via their official state email addresses.  Interestingly, the same two representatives who had replied to my Facebook messages replied to the email, and the same three representatives who had not replied to my Facebook messages did not reply to the email.

On the positive side, Representative Conway‘s reply came the same day and seemed to display genuine interest in the issue.

Not so positively, Representative Bahr‘s reply came the following day, was copied to all four of his colleagues, and didn’t leave me with a warm and fuzzy feeling.

After he labeled me “the expert” on the matter at hand, Representative Bahr demanded I offer a solution before he would devote time to the matter.  In a “Reply to All” message, I refused the expert label and went on to share my beliefs that elected and unelected state officials must be responsive and that the issues raised in the report are not the kind to be solved quickly.  I closed by explaining what, at a minimum, officials at the state health agency should be required to do.

My short to-do list included requiring MDHSS officials to explain how they reached the conclusions they had reached in the report, to answer why they’ve refused to answer any questions from reporters — including Blythe Bernhard at the Post-Dispatch and me — about the report, and to respond to criticism of the report, such as that offered by Washington University Professor Robert Criss in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch article, Report on cancer report from Weldon Spring site assailed.  It was published Feb. 20, four weeks after my initial article.

Interestingly, I ran into Representative Parkinson Saturday at the aforementioned caucus (a.k.a., “St. Patrick’s Day Massacre”), a topic about which I’ve written and published nine posts to date (not including this one).  He was manning the first chair at a long table of GOP officials processing caucus registrations.

When my turn to register came, I asked Representative Parkinson why he had not responded to any of my messages about Weldon Spring.  He said he had not seen them and acted like he didn’t know what I was talking about.

The conversation continued, and Representative Parkinson asked me to provide details about the issue.  I told him it was Weldon Spring, that he should read his email from me and — cognizant of the fact that 300 people were waiting behind me in the long caucus registration line — that “now” wasn’t the time or the place to discuss the matter.

As I started to walk away, Representative Parkinson asked if I, as “the expert” on the Weldon Spring matter, would like to discuss it over coffee.  I replied by telling him I would prefer to handle the matter more expediently, without wasting more time, via his response to my email message.

Later, while waiting for the caucus to begin inside the larger of two gymnasiums at Francis Howell North High School in St. Peters, Representative Parkinson approached me and again assured me that he had not seen any of my messages.  In response, I told him I found it odd that he had referred to me earlier as “the expert” – in much the same way Representative Bahr had in his aforementioned email — even though he said he had not seen any of the messages related to me.  The conversation ended there, and I went back to my seat in the bleachers.

A few hours after the caucus ended, Representative Parkinson sent me the Facebook message below, shown verbatim:

Bob…after an exhaustive search of my inbox (mark.parkinson@house.mo.gov) I can not find any corresoondence from you on this issue. I don’t check facebook mail often (or at all). Please direct any official correspondence to the above email address.

We can discuss this issue when we sit down to discuss the other.

Mark

My response — “Mark – Perhaps you should look more closely. See screenshot of the message to you from my email “SENT” folder. – Bob” — was accompanied by a screenshot (taken March 18 and shown below) as evidence that Representative Parkinson had received the same message that all of his colleagues received.

Is it possible that Representative Parkinson is just computer illiterate?  Sure, it’s possible.  But I think that’s a stretch.

Instead, I believe he received my message but chose to ignore it.  My belief is augmented by the fact that my email message sent to the five state representatives did not produce any bounce-back messages like those I received on a handful of occasions in the past after I had used incorrect email addresses when trying to communicate with Missouri legislators.  [FYI:  As of this publication, I have still not received any email response from Representative Parkinson.]

Finally, it’s certainly worth noting that I ran into Representative Conway at the caucus, too.

During two brief discussions, she (1) seemed to express genuine interest in the matter, (2) told me she had read the materials to which I had provided links, and (3) gave me the feeling she would follow up on the matter.  Then, lo and behold, she contacted me via Facebook message to let me know she had contacted MDHSS and had more questions.  So much for that “initial impression” I mentioned early in this piece.

Sadly, the other state representatives’ responses and failures to respond raise more questions then they answer.

That in mind, I would like to offer a suggestion to readers (1) who live in one of the zip codes (63301, 63303, 63304, 63366 and 63376) covered by the cancer report, (2) who live in a zip code near the Weldon Spring Site or (3) who simply think these state legislators should be interested in this matter.  Use the information below to contact them in Jefferson City and let them know:

Rep. Kurt Bahr — 573-751-9768 or Kurt.Bahr@house.mo.gov;

Rep. Kathie Conway — 573-751-2250 or Kathie.Conway@house.mo.gov;

Rep. Chuck Gatschenberger — 573-751-3572 or Chuck.Gatschenberger@house.mo.gov;

Rep. Mark Parkinson — 573-751-2949 or Mark.Parkinson@house.mo.gov; and

Rep. Anne Zerr — 573-751-3717 or Anne.Zerr@house.mo.gov.

UPDATE 3/28/12 at 5:12 p.m. Central:  Though they don’t have time to investigate serious public health issues, members of the Missouri House of Representatives voted today in favor of making jumping jacks the official state exercise.  Hmmm?

UNRELATED, BUT WORTH A LOOK:  Check out my book, Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice.

Missouri Health Agency Officials Refuse to Answer Questions About New Weldon Spring Cancer Report

On March 11, 2011, a major earthquake off the coast of Japan triggered a tsunami that, in addition to killing more than 15,000 people, contributed to the disaster at the Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Plant — the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.  After watching the Fukushima disaster unfold for three weeks, I began to wonder about all things nuclear, including the Weldon Spring Site, located in a once-rural area 30 miles west of St. Louis.

According to the Department of Energy’s history of the Weldon Spring Site, the site was placed on the EPA’s National Priorities List in 1987 because of the potential for groundwater contamination to adversely affect a drinking water well field less than a mile away that served 60,000 users in the area.  That same year, DOE began cleanup actions. Most of the soils were removed and deposited into a 42-acre disposal cell located on-site in the vicinity of the former feed materials plant.

What was it, exactly, that required cleaning?

According to the summary of a nine-page document published by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and  known unofficially as the 2005 Weldon Spring Cancer Report, the Weldon Spring Site in St. Charles County, Mo., was contaminated during the production of 2, 4, 6 – trinitrotoluene (TNT) and 2, 4 and 2,6 Dinitrotoluene (DNT) by the U.S. Department of Army from 1941 to 1945 and from enrichment of uranium ore and thorium processing by the Atomic Energy Commission from 1958 to 1966.

Also contained in the 2005 report was a call for follow-up testing to be conducted in response to concerns that radiological and chemical contamination related to the Weldon Spring Site might be negatively impacting the health of residents in the area.  Specifically, the report’s authors recommended “the Cancer Inquiry Program should continue to monitor the cancer incidence and mortality rates in Weldon Spring and its surrounding areas.”

Ever curious, I decided to find out if the “continue to monitor” recommendation had been taken to heart by MDHSS decision-makers.

Gravel-covered stairs lead to the top of the 75-foot-tall disposal cell at the Weldon Spring Site.

On March 24, 2011, I contacted the agency via email and asked if a new report was taking shape.  Then-Communications Director Jacqueline Lapine responded by telling me that an update to the 2005 report would be published in December 2011.

During the next nine months, I checked with her several times on the status of the report and was told each time that it was still on schedule.  Then, just after 5 o’clock Dec. 29, 2011, a message from Gena Terlizzi arrived in my mailbox.  Included as an attachment to the message from Terlizzi, a woman who had only recently replaced Lapine as the agency’s communications director, was a copy of the new report, known officially as the Analysis of Leukemia Incidence and Mortality Data for St. Charles County, Weldon Spring and Surrounding Areas December 2011 (Update to April 2005 Report) and unofficially as the “Weldon Spring Update” or “2011 Weldon Spring Cancer Inquiry Report.”

I read the new report and found it contains two noteworthy statements in its “Updated Analysis” section on page two.  The first appears below:

Based on updated data from the 5-zip code area, the total number of leukemia deaths and the total number of leukemia deaths in those age 65 and older appears to be significantly higher than expected (Table 4 updated) but the actual leukemia death rates in the 5-zip code area were not significantly different from the statewide leukemia death rates (Table B).

While the first noteworthy statement resembles bureaucratic doublespeak, the second statement (below) leaves one feeling perplexed:

Based on this analysis, we have concluded that there is no increased environmental risk of developing leukemia in the five ZIP-code area during 1996-2004 over that of the entire state.

Together, the two statements combine to raise at least one serious question in my mind:

Should the report’s conclusions about the total number of leukemia deaths and the total number of leukemia deaths among people 65 and older warrant concern among St. Charles County residents, especially those living within the five zip codes (63301, 63303, 63304, 63366 and 63376) targeted by the study?

With that question in my mind, I fired off another email message to MDHSS shortly after noon Central Dec. 30.  In it, I asked several questions, including the two below:

MDHSS officials buried the Weldon Spring Cancer Inquiry Report near the bottom of the “Data & Statistics” page of the agency’s website.

1.  Can you tell me why, in both the 2005 report and the 2011 Weldon Spring Update, MDHSS has looked only at leukemia deaths instead of deaths attributed to a wider variety of cancers? and

2.  I noticed MDHSS has not posted the 2011 Weldon Spring Update on its website or issued a news release about the findings.  Do you plan to issue a news release about it and/or share information contained in the 2011 Weldon Spring Update with residents who live within the five zip codes studied?  If so, when and how?

Worth noting:  I discovered a link to the PDF version of the 2011 report a short time after sending my questions to Terlizzi.  The fact that MDHSS officials had buried it — without explanation, among a half-dozen “special reports” at the bottom of the Data & Statistics page on the MDHSS website — prompted me to let question #2 stand.  SEE UPDATE #2 BELOW.

On Jan. 3 at 3:36 p.m. Central, I received the following response from Terlizzi:

Hi Bob,

We don’t have any additional information or comments aside from what’s included in the report.

Thank you,

Gena

Surprised by the brief response, I placed a follow-up phone call and sent a follow-up email message to Terlizzi, hoping to get some clarification.  Both went unreturned.

As an Air Force public affairs officer during the 1980s and ’90s, I learned quite a bit through firsthand experience dealing with the public and the news media on serious topics, including environmental health concerns related to nuclear-capable military operations.  Among the most important things I learned was that public relations strategies that involve covering up, sugarcoating or otherwise trying to hide bad news from the public never turn out well and should be avoided at all cost.  Those who employ such shortsighted strategies end up facing more questions.

In the case of MDHSS, the agency’s no-comment stance caused two immediate questions to form in my mind:

Are state health agency officials trying to hide something from the public?  and

Do residents living within the target zip codes deserve (1) to have the findings contained in the 2011 report shared with them in a proactive fashion and (2) to get answers to their questions about the report?

While I hope the answer to the first question is “No,” I know the answer to the second question is a resounding “YES!”

* * *

I began this piece some 1,100 words ago by mentioning the disaster at Fukushima.  That event, however, wasn’t the only one to cause me to be interested in the Weldon Spring Site.

During more than ten years of living in the St. Louis area, I’ve heard many people joke about not allowing their children to drink from the water fountains at Francis Howell High School, located a stone’s throw from the Weldon Spring Site.  Most recently, however, I received a phone call.

From the top of the disposal cell at the Weldon Spring Site, one can see nearby Francis Howell High School.

A few days before Halloween 2010, a 40-something mother of two who lives near the Weldon Spring Site contacted me with concerns about what she perceived to be an unusually-high number of cancer cases in her neighborhood.

During multiple conversations over six days, she told me she knew of several people who were either battling cancer or had recently died from the disease. All lived within three blocks of her home in a subdivision of approximately 150 homes, one of many new housing areas to spring up out of farmland in fast-growing St. Charles County during the 1980s and 1990s.

What concerned her most was the fact that the types of cancer involved were varied and included several types of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, lung cancer and a rare blood cancer.  I took some notes, told the woman I would look into the matter and agreed not to share her name with readers if/when I published anything about the serious subject of our conversations. In reality, though, I didn’t expect our conversations to lead to anything.

Five months later, she contacted me again and told me that another of her neighbors — a child living two blocks away — had been diagnosed with cancer. In addition, she told me about several more cases of children attending schools close to her home who had died from different forms of brain cancer. I filed the information just in case.

Some might consider information provided by a nameless suburban housewife unreliable and label it “rumor” and “hearsay” — and I can’t blame them.  I was skeptical myself.

Another two weeks passed, and the same woman forwarded more information to me in the form of links to two articles.

One link led me to an article published March 7, 2001, in St. Louis’ Riverfront Times, the Voice Media Group-owned alternative weekly newspaper in which one can occasionally find a well-researched, long-form investigative piece.  This particular article contained several hard-to-ignore paragraphs, but none stood out more than the one below which contains the observations of a Catholic priest, Father Gerry Kleba:

Last spring, Kleba’s vow of obedience brought him to a new assignment as a senior associate pastor in the placid suburbs of St. Charles County. What he saw shocked him. “This parish has more sick and dying children than I have ever experienced in my 35 years as a priest,” he told the new social-concerns committee.

The second link led to an article published May 24, 2010, in the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald.  It highlighted the story of a couple who, before moving to Nebraska, lived for four years near the Weldon Spring Site. They said they believed environmental toxins from the site were responsible for their two sons’ cases of leukemia.

While the two articles are, at a minimum, thought-provoking, they didn’t convince me of the need to write anything about the Weldon Spring Site. But I remained curious.

During the next few months, I had several off-the-record conversations with long-time residents of the area — people I thought might know something about the subject at hand. One pointed me in the direction of Fernald, Ohio, a small township 18 miles northwest of Cincinnati that was home to a “sister site” of Weldon Spring that had also operated as a feed materials plant.

The Fernald Site was the subject of a New York Times article dated July 27, 1994, that offered some interesting information, including the two tidbits below:

1. The Department of Energy settled a lawsuit in 1994 with former Fernald Site workers, guaranteeing them lifetime medical monitoring paid for by the government at an expected cost to the government of at least $20 million; and

2. In 1989, DOE reached a settlement of $78 million in a lawsuit brought against the government by 14,000 residents of Fernald who contended that their property had been contaminated by uranium.

A source familiar with both the Weldon Spring and Fernald sites told me the 1994 settlement mentioned in the Times story would serve as a precursor of sorts to federal legislation passed 11 years later that would provide up to $400,000 in payments for former nuclear workers and/or their survivors nationwide as well as lifetime medical care.  Among those covered were individuals who had worked at the Weldon Spring Site.

Shortly before publishing this story, that same source told me at least two lawsuits similar to the $78 million Fernald lawsuit have been filed on behalf of citizens living near Apollo/Parks Township, Pa., about 15 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, where activities similar to those conducted at Weldon Spring and Fernald took place for many years.  Though I could find no evidence of any mass tort lawsuits being filed by residents living near the Weldon Spring Site, the same source tells me a group of lawyers is studying that costly possibility.

FINAL THOUGHT:  I know the information shared in this piece might fray some nerves.  All must know, however, that the folks at MDHSS bear responsibility for this story being published.  Had they answered my straight-forward questions in the first place, I might not have felt the need to search for answers on my own; I might not have published a story at all; and I might have continued living in ignorant bliss smack in the heart of one of the targeted zip codes.

Click here to read more-recent stories about the Weldon Spring site.

UPDATE #1 1/25/12 at 2:17 p.m. Central:  Talk Radio Alert: ‘The Dana Show’ Friday Afternoon.

UPDATE #2 1/27/12 at 2:12 p.m. Central:  A reader pointed out to me that clicking on the link (“Weldon Spring Cancer Report Inquiry”) at the bottom of the MDHSS website’s “Data & Statistics” page results in the 2005 report being downloaded.  I tried it and found the reader is right as of this moment.  That being the case, state health agency officials appear to be even less transparent than I thought.  They haven’t even buried the new report on their website.

FOLLOW-UP to UPDATE #1:  Finished the appearance with Dana.  As soon as a podcast is available, I’ll try to post a link to it here.  Go to “The Dana Show” page and select the podcast labeled “1-27-12 Bob McCarty.”

U.S.S. Ronald Reagan Aviators Risk All to Help Japanese Following Earthquakes, Tsunamis

As a former Air Force officer, I like to “talk trash” when it comes to interservice rivalry.  Today, however, I must commend the folks serving aboard the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan and other U.S. Navy vessels in the Pacific as they risk radiation contamination while conducting rescue and recovery operations in Japan. The video below tells part of their story:

Read more about it in Despite Contamination, Navy Copters Keep Aiding Japan, at Wired.

As I learn more about other U.S. military efforts (i.e., Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and others) in response to the earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan, I will add updates here.

FYI: If you enjoy this blog and want to keep reading stories like the one above, show your support by using the “Support Bob” tool at right. Thanks in advance for your support!

Patient Decides to Turn Table on Doctor

A relative of mine had an experience in the world of medicine during the past week that seemed worthy of sharing.

After having a “nuclear stress test” done on a Tuesday, he had to go back to the stress-test doctor’s office to get a note from the doctor to explain why he was radiating.  Because my relative was due to travel overseas soon, getting the note seemed quite important to him.

I would like to be able to say I’m sharing the story below as an example of what government-run health care (a.k.a., “ObamaCare”) might be like.  Instead, it’s simply an example of poor customer service in a medical setting.

The story begins below with my relative (“The Patient”) at the doctor’s office where he had the nerve to ask his doctor’s assistant (“SHE ONE”) if his results were available yet:

“When did you take the test, Tuesday?” SHE ONE replied.

“Yes, on Tuesday,” the patient said.

“Then they’re not back yet,” said SHE ONE, causing patient to wonder, “How would she know if she didn’t look?  And if she knew from experience, why did the other ding-a-ling behind the counter with her (“SHE TWO”) tell me when I left on Tuesday to check back on Friday.  One of them is a know-it-all, huh?”

SHE ONE went to get patient his note and, when she returned, told patient, “You really don’t need the card because it’s been long enough” before handing him the card anyway.

“Why do some people feel like slapping you just before they help you?” the patient asked himself.  “I didn’t even know the card existed until they told me they’d give me one.  Heck, after THEY forgot to give the card to me when I left the office three days earlier, I figured I’d be a good soldier and go get what we both forgot  Live and learn.”

The story continues.

“Since the results aren’t in, could you mail them to me – email or snail mail,” the patient asked SHE ONE.

SHE ONE shrugged her shoulders and turned to confer with her fellow customer-unfriendly twit, SHE TWO.

“No – we are not allowed,” said SHE TWO.

“I’ll be out of the country for the next few months,” the patient explained, “so how will you notify me of the results?”

“We will only notify you if there is bad news,” said SHE TWO.

“OK, well I would prefer you let me know,” the patient explained, “because I won’t know if I’ve just missed a call or not as I won’t be at my home.”

“That’s OUR SYSTEM – that’s just the way we do it,” SHE TWO replied.

“Well, it’s not a very comforting system, since I won’t know whether you tried to call or whether something fell through the cracks,” the patient responded.

“We have a SYSTEM,” said SHE TWO.

“And some systems fail,” the patient said.  “I’m just asking that you contact me regardless.”

“That’s not what the doctor DOES; it’s the way HE does it,” said SHE TWO.  “But if YOU want to call US, feel free.”

“So that’s it.  Wonderful,” said the patient.

Snide looks abound.

It occurs to the patient that he and his insurance company are asked to pay $1,500 to complete a test and, if the results turn out to be normal, will hear nothing back from the doctor unless the patient calls the doctor’s office.

After some deliberation, the patient decided what he will do when he receives the bill from the doctor and is asked to pay his portion of the $1,500, — most likely, 10 percent.  He will send the doctor a reply that says the following:

“It’s my policy not to pay for things until I get the results.  So I authorize YOU to send me an email with the results and once they’re received, I’ll send you a check for those results. Quid pro quo.  In the mean time, I have no other means of knowing that any work was accomplished on my behalf.”  AND THAT is HOW I DO IT.”

That’s all, Doc!