Martha Reclamation Program: Dump and Run

Toxic Soup: Ashland's Radioactive Sludge Pits

Toxic Soup: Radiation at Blaine Elementary School

Friday, December 18, 2009

Legal Struggle: Don't Cry Over Spilled Radium

The village of Martha has had challenges in dealing with Ashland Oil to clean up the radioactive waste spread around the oil field.  These challenges have resulted in several lawsuits filed by residents against Ashland Oil.  These lawsuits have been dragging through the courts for over a decade.  We will comment on one of these lawsuits, Cantrell v. Ashland, to demonstrate the ridiculous position that Ashland Oil has taken in dealing with the affected landowners.  The Kentucky Supreme Court has agreed to hear oral arguments concerning the case.

In Cantrell v. Ashland, the plaintiffs sued Ashland Oil for damages resulting from Ashland dumping radioactive waste on the plaintiffs’ properties during the process of separating oil from the pumping water.  The radioactive waste was the pumping water infused with radium-226, a water-soluble radioactive isotope with a half-life of 1600 years, that was naturally present in the oil-bearing formation.  This radioactive pumping water was brought to the surface, separated from the oil, then disposed of in sludge pits and local streams by Ashland, creating radioactive hot spots around the oil field.

The plaintiffs contend that they suffered a health hazard and a decrease in property value due to the radioactive contamination.  Ashland says that just because the property is contaminated with radiation does not mean a health hazard exists, since radiation “cannot be seen, heard, felt, smelled, tasted or otherwise detected by human senses.”  Ashland also takes the position that the property damages are “stigma” claims, that the plaintiffs should not be compensated for the “stigma” of having radioactive waste on their property.

Think about the position that Ashland has taken.  They admit to dumping radioactive waste on the properties… who else could have done it?  However, Ashland claims that the radioactive contamination is not a health hazard since you cannot see, hear, feel, smell, taste or otherwise detect it with human senses and that Ashland is not going to compensate the plaintiffs for the “stigma” of having radioactive hot spots on their properties.  This is outrageous.

We believe Ashland is trying to use legal maneuvering and technicalities to avoid owning up to the responsibility of cleaning up the mess they made.  We also believe Ashland would like to stick the landowners and the taxpayers of Kentucky with the cleanup bill, and they are hoping to use the court system of Kentucky to do it.  We will show you why we believe this in the next post.

Shame!  Clean up your mess, Ashland Oil!

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