19 July 2013
JONESBOROUGH, TN (USA): Activists reveal radioactive pollution
by Michael Henes
Ken Edwards, Brethren Pastor and member
Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) and Appalachian Peace Education Center (APEC) held a press conference on Monday 15 July announcing the findings of a recent study revealing uranium contamination in the area surrounding Aerojet Ordnance Tennessee (AOT) in Jonesborough.
Johnson City Press newspaper and NBC-affiliate WJHL Channel 11 attended the conference held on Old State Route 34 across from the northeast Tennessee uranium weapons facility.
Standing at a table arrayed with soil samples gathered outside AOT, representatives of CPT and APEC spoke about the contamination in the area while affirming their faith in the goodness of humanity.
John Mueller, a former chemist, noted that a 2013 study has demonstrated that soil, creek sediment and biological life near the plant are contaminated with waste from the manufacturing of radioactive weaponry.
“Because Aerojet is the only nearby company that can work with processed uranium, we assert that the Aerojet plant is polluting the environment with uranium,” Mr. Mueller said.
Amarillo, TX resident Rusty Tomlinson spoke about the health implications of the uranium contamination. “Studies of veterans exposed to uranium weapons showed that male vets have three times the normal rate of children with birth defects,” he said. “Female vets have four times the normal rate.” He cited the case of Army major Doug Rokke whose contact with uranium munitions in Iraq in 1991 caused life-threatening illnesses with which he continues to struggle.
Depleted Uranium, widely used by the U.S. military, is both highly toxic and radioactive. It becomes an aerosol fume when it combusts—as part of the process of uranium waste incineration and as a result of munitions deployment—and has traveled airborne thousands of miles. When ingested, DU particles travel via the bloodstream throughout the body where it can cause cancer and disease associated with resultant DNA disruption. (source: Roselie Bertell in “Depleted Uranium: All the Questions About DU and Gulf War Syndrome Are Not Yet Answered,” International Journal of Health Services 36.3 (2006): 503-20.
Aerojet declined an offer by CPT to participate in the press conference. Monday, guards looked on as Jonesborough resident and APEC Board member Ken Edwards handed fliers to people driving by. However, when Edwards, a Church of the Brethren Minister, began approaching people within the facility parking lot, a guard came out and told him, “You cannot do that here.”
Maryknoll nun Rosemarie Milazzo, emphasized CPT and APEC's commitment to a nonviolent path toward transformation. “We believe all weapons are immoral and their use is incompatible with the most basic principles of humanity and environmental health protection. How can we as a civilized society continue to harm others by disregarding our responsibility to care for and protect our land?”
|CPT reservist Merwyn DeMello proclaims the|
reality of local radioactive contamination from
Aerojet Ordnance Tennessee as part of the CPT
DU Jonesborough, TN Delegation.