In 1997 major health concerns stemming from Oak Ridge’s Toxic Substances Control Act Incinerator began cropping up in the The Tennessean as part of a longer investigative series exposing the mysterious and sudden illnesses imposed on Oak Ridgers. The Incinerator began production in 1991 disposing of radioactive and hazardous wastes from the Oak Ridge area. Unbeknownst to Oak Ridgers however, the DOE accelerated the incineration process between late 1991 and 1997 by allowing more states to cart their radioactive waste to Oak Ridge for disposal.
“I [pray] that one day someone will find out what’s wrong with me and all the others so we can stop this terrible thing.” —Ann Orick, Oak Ridge resident
As a result, previously healthy citizens began experiencing a wide range of unexplained symptoms both topical —such as skin irritations, rashes, hair loss —and internal complications— such as organ failure, heart problems, and neurological disorders. Higher traces of poisonous contamination were found in the historically black neighborhood of Scarboro, the closest to the Oak Ridge nuclear facilities, sparking controversy and a broad CDC investigation.
The Tennessean articles created a nationwide discussion on nuclear waste and its impact on public health. Congressman Bart Gordon cosponsored the “Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Act of 2000” to provide compensation for the afflicted workers but this bill died on the House of Representatives floor. It was not until 2009 that the Oak Ridge incinerator ceased all activity and began plans for deconstruction. In July of 2018 the dismantling process of the incinerator began and should be completed some time fall of 2018.
“All Tennesseans should be should concerned about what you have brought to light.” —Bart Gordon
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