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Portsmouth site expelled radioactive material into air and environment for many years without informing nearby schools, homes, businesses

The winds have blown radioactive materials from the Portsmouth Site in Pike County, Ohio at such levels that on May 13, 2019, Zahn’s Corner Middle School was forced to close. The school is approximately two miles from the plant, but hardly the only populated area impacted by the enriched uranium and neptunium-237 that has been detected in the area.

Residents within a seven-mile radius of the plant are now seeking remediation for the radioactive and metal contamination found on their properties and have hired an internationally-renowned group of attorneys and scientists responsible for the largest verdict in legal history for radiation contamination.

The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court/Southern District of Ohio Eastern Division notes that no nuclear incident has ever been reported at the site, nor did any of the named defendants, private companies tasked with performing work in and around the site, have a license to dispose of said materials on the plaintiff’s property.

According to the suit, the United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC) assumed uranium enrichment operations at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in 1993. Over the following years, operations related to the processing, enrichment, conversion, and disposal of uranium and uranium byproducts were executed by USEC and other named defendants Centrus Energy Corp., Uranium Disposition Services LLC, BWXT Conversion Services, LLC, Mid-America Conversion Services, Bechtel Jacobs Company, LLC, LATA/Parallax Portsmouth, LLC, and Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth, LLC. Plaintiff’s experts have stated that since defendants processed recycled uranium at this site, the waste would more likely than not contain plutonium.

Lead Counsel Stuart H. Smith, one of the attorneys in the newly filed class action, has more than 30-years of experience documenting the radioactive shelf life of these nuclear activities, as well as the extensive procedures often taken by corporate entities to conceal the environmental impact upon neighboring properties, as well as human, animal and plant life.

The biggest problem for the community and workers is that unlike a petrochemical or plastics plant, the radioactive materials cannot be detected by the human senses. The team of scientists working with Mr. Smith have already documented elevated levels of radioactive particles in the properties surrounding the Portsmouth facility.

“Evidence indicates that properties and persons living near the site were exposed to toxic substances which will negatively impact their health and property values,” said Mr. Smith. “Worse, they were never informed of the contamination and its impact.”

Environmental evidence gathered so far has shown radioactive materials, including very dangerous alpha-emitting radionuclides, on and around Plaintiff’s properties and are consistent with those expected to be found at uranium enrichment sites such as the Portsmouth Site.

Exposure to the type of toxins released into the environment by this plant may have physical and genetic damages to those so impacted, said the filing, including cancers and birth abnormalities.

“The reckless and careless conduct of the defendants and their decision to put profits over the safety of the families and children of Pike County will not be tolerated,” said Stuart Scott, Partner at Spangenberg Shibley & Liber LLP in Cleveland and one of the attorneys in the class action. “We will hold the defendants accountable in Ohio courts for needless harm they have caused by their careless mishandling of the most dangerous material on earth.”

The class action is on behalf of all current and former property owners within a seven-mile radius of the plant, all residents who lived within that radius for more than one calendar year, and on behalf of all current and former students of Zahn’s Corner Middle School as well as their parents.

Mr. Smith has been the nation’s leading litigator on radiation contamination cases since 1992, when he litigated against Chevron for six-and- a-half solid months of trial in federal court in Mississippi for exposing its workers and property owners to radioactive oil pipe residue, becoming one of the longest civil jury trials in U.S. history.

Mr. Smith, in 2001, won the largest verdict in legal history for radiation contamination which had been concealed by ExxonMobil in Harvey, Louisiana. He has also represented the residents and businesses impacted by St. Louis’ 75-year corporate history of irresponsibly transporting and storing radioactive waste.

Mr. Smith leads a team of legal, medical, and environmental experts. “I have tried radiation cases against ExxonMobil and Chevron that have lasted months in court. The Portsmouth defendants are either going to remediate their actions or we will see them in court. These actors must take responsibility for their reckless actions,” he said.

Stuart H. Smith

Mr. Smith is the author of Crude Justice, a book documenting his history of radiation litigation staring with the 1992 Street v. Chevron case which pitted the family owners of a pipe-yard located in rural southeastern Mississippi against a multinational oil conglomerate. The Mississippi Division of Radiological Health found radiation from radium on the Street property 500 times the natural level. In 2001, Smith was lead counsel in an oilfield radiation case that resulted in a verdict of $1.056 billion against ExxonMobil for contaminating private property it leased from the Grefer family in Harvey, Louisiana. He is the founder of the Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice at Loyola University New Orleans. Find more information here:

Kevin W. Thompson

 A lawyer, entrepreneur, and inventor who has been involved in high-stakes litigation across the country for more than 20 years. Thompson served as class counsel and head of a litigation team that achieved a $151 million settlement for the people of Charleston, WV, whose water supply was tainted and economy disrupted during the Elk River Spill of 2014. He has been nominated twice for Public Justice’s Trial Lawyer of the Year Award for his groundbreaking work in the public interest. Thompson’s work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone Magazine, National Geographic, on ABC TV News, and in two documentaries, Coal Rush and Toxic Soup. 

Celeste Brustowicz

 Celeste Brustowicz excels in civil litigation including medical malpractice, commercial litigation, insurance issues, product liability and civil rights cases. She successfully handled multiple class action suits in federal and state courts arising out of flooding related to the levee failure and impact of Hurricane Katrina. She has practiced for more than 30 years. 

Mark F. Underwood

Established his law firm to make the world safer by representing victims of chemical plant explosions and fires, chemical spills and coal mine explosions. He is a recognized “Super Lawyer” and a state legislator from West Virginia.

Jason A. Leasure

Represents the tri-state firm of Vital and Vital LLC, representing families in West-Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky. He is a U.S. Air Force Veteran and recognized as one of the Top 100 National Trial Lawyers.

Stuart E. Scott

Is a partner with Spangenberg Shibley & Liber of Cleveland, Ohio and has built a career fighting for the consumer in a healthy free market, especially when those individuals and families have been hurt by corporate negligence, malpractice, and/or dangerous and defective products.

Victor T. Cobb

Is an attorney with the Cooper Law Firm of New Orleans with an expertise in handling complex business litigation.