30 Fairmont Park Lane S
Re: Joan Wierzba letter, June 3, “Photos of mutant plants don’t lie, but Three Mile Island owners did.”
I’d like to thank Ms. Wierzba and the Herald for a copy of two articles from the “The Voice” of May 13, 1986. Ms Wierzba’s letters on Three Mile Island (TMI) are consistent with the articles.
The photos in one article are striking – not because they provide evidence of mutation by radiation – but for the very artful way they are used by the author to imply such. One photo is particularly blatantly used. It shows what appears to be a spruce tree with a large ball of tight packed branches or abnormal growth. I’ve seen many of those over the years. This one is in a cemetery surrounded by gravestones. The caption reads “Unusual plant effects, like this one on a tree near Harrisburg usually signal a high number of cancer cases.” Talk about leading the minds of readers by implication! A colleague recalls similar stories of monster plants or animals in the “National Enquirer” following TMI.
The other article also seems to bend over backward to keep attention focused on TMI in the face of the much worse accident at Chernobyl which occurred just two and one-half weeks before these articles were published.
A class action lawsuit was launched within weeks after the TMI accident on behalf of all businesses and residences within 25 miles of the site. A land mark case in 1996 finally dismissed ten of some two thousand lawsuits on the basis the plaintiffs provided no evidence of causal radiation. Appeals of remaining cases ground on for another sixteen years, until lawyers for the plaintiffs finally gave up in 2002.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency was on the scene of the accident within hours and stayed for several months sampling extensively for radiation. They concluded in 1980 that “"An interagency analysis concluded that the accident did not raise radioactivity far enough above background levels to cause even one additional cancer death among the people in the area. They found no contamination in water, soil, sediment or plant samples."
This is a long sad story of possible greed on the part of some, and sure disillusionment of unsophisticated plaintiff’s convinced by unverified stories they had a case for damages. My website provides access to more details and references at www.computare.org/commentary.