In Piketon, Ohio, David and Pam Mills who have grown tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and okra on their property for about 18 years, now say they can’t trust their soil anymore. Why? Because less than a 5-minute walk from their property a short metal fence marking where the Mills property ends, there is a sign that reads, “U.S. PROPERTY, NO TRESPASSING,” in big, bold letters with red, white, and blue borders, where the US government is constructing a 100-acre landfill for radioactive waste. Piketon, Ohio is a rural, low income, and largely white county and home to more than 28,000 people across a number of small towns and cities. When you drive through neighborhoods behind Piketon’s main highway, lawn signs covered in red stating “NO RADIOACTIVE WASTE DUMP in Pike County” can be seen everywhere.
The US Department of Energy (DOE) owns the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant, and now, the agency is trying to clean it up. When construction is finished, it will be one of the largest nuclear waste dumps east of the Mississippi, and waste could begin entering it as soon as the Fall of 2019.
The clean-up and construction of the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant spurred the 2,000 strong Village of Pike community members, to pass a resolution in August 2017 opposing the landfill. The Mills say “It’s gonna contaminate everything,” “It’s just a matter of time.”
However, the problem for Piketon residents, is there is nothing technically illegal about the landfill. The US DOE, though the polluter, is taking the lead on cleaning up the facility, and the Ohio EPA supports its plan. Whether their decision is morally right given local opposition is another matter. But this is what often happens when a corporation or governmental entity needs to dispose of toxic waste: It gets dumped in an overlooked town, like Piketon, Ohio, that doesn’t deserve it.
When contacted by the reporter, the Trump Administration’s US Department of Energy (DOE) wouldn’t comment on why it chose this site despite the nearby streams nor would it say how that impacts environmental risk.