Day 37 - Sunday April 17th, 2005
Beavertown PA to New Cumberland PA
On April 17 we were joined by Debbie Davenport, a local resident who, since the accident at Three Mile Island, has done all she can to learn as much as possible about the plant and the accident and the far reaching affects it had on the local community.
Here are just a few of the points she raised in her discussion:
Many of the people in surrounding areas are farmers, so were outside at the time of the accident, and there were many cases of throwing up (green coloured vomit that can indicate radiation exposure), hair loss and intense sunburn.
Animals in pastures died or gave birth to animals with severe defects and illnesses Crops failed in immediate years following the accident (also possibly related to the observed reduction in the number of bees and other pollinating insects) Nobel gas deposits in soils can be disturbed by ploughing etc, remaining for many years.
Many people have already died or now have cancer One family on a property all had strange lumps on their skin, but when asked if they had any health problems they said no - possibly because they didn't recognise it as being related to the accident. People often didn't receive treatment for problems because they didn't have insurance, or there is lack of access to appropriate treatment.
Pregnant women exposed gave birth to babies with a high rate of illness and defects and also infant deaths, miscarriages and abortions. (it has been difficult to get information, as records stop the year after the accident occurred) African American communities suffered because they were less able to evacuate when necessary, so were exposed more.
At a local dam (where there is a water treatment and hydroelectric plant) two local girls found dead fish because hot effluent had been released from the plant. People have even found one-eyed fish !!
However, despite the above and countless other stories from locals and other information collected over the years, the government has still not recognised many of the adverse affects having been a result of the accident and radiation exposure, and often reports were not taken seriously. For example, one farmer who complained of high levels of iodine in his pond water was told it was a result of him urinating in it.
Some locals were rewarded with partial settlements or are awaiting settlements. There were offers for families to move to houses in different cities in order to keep them from speaking out locally.
Some locals found themselves in danger when they spoke out or looked into things more deeply. One farmer had a car follow the vehicle that would remove dead animals from his property, and unmarked black helicopters fly over his pastures. He was visited by a man and told to keep quiet because he would be in danger if he spoke out.
Compensation and other money has changed hands, discouraging people from speaking out. Even when people have information and knowledge, they dont believe that it can help things to change.
The local library has thrown out all its technical books over ten years old, making it difficult to get access to infomation from 1979.
One worker's family actually left the area two weeks before the accident happened. He feared something was going wrong within the plant. Debbie explained that its possible they attempted to "burp" out the hydrogen bubble that had built up over 8 days.
Debbie spoke of the pressures that people are under, and the need to encourage them to speak out. To learn the facts and research the information, listen to the stories of locals' experiences and help them to speak out. The media too needs to be repeatedly told and contacted and pushed to publish the issues.