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Radioactive waste at Florida State University may be killing us

By Dr. Edward Holifield

Why has Florida State University (FSU) shipped in secrecy 24.32 tons of dangerous radioactive waste from a “low-level” nuclear waste disposal site in Tallahassee, Florida? Why was the waste was sent 2100 miles across the country to Clive, Utah?

Clive, Utah is home to a “near-surface” commercial facility that accepts radioactive waste from sites all over the country.

As for low-level radioactive waste, there is no clear definition as to what this is. There is no upper limit or lower limit of the radioactivity associated with this term.

The Tallahassee site had accepted low-level radioactive waste for burial from 1958 to 1964.

As for the Tallahassee site, high energy gamma radiation from material too dangerous to be shipped to Utah was also detected in the burial site. This material remained at FSU reportedly to be disposed of by other means that have not been specified.

It is common practice for powerful institutions such as FSU to degrade poor or minority communities with contaminants that would never be placed in wealthy white communities.

Such environmental racism is nothing new. The result can be disastrous on the health and wellbeing of these communities.

Why were residents in the nearby Black communities of Callan, off of Pottsdammer Street, and Providence, off of Levy Avenue, not notified of this shipment via two tractor trailer trucks that took place on July 22, 2021?

Why was this radioactive waste deposited in a “near-surface” disposal site where it will continue to be dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years?

Why did FSU choose a Tallahassee site near two Black residential communities as a destination for its radioactive waste?

A second site in the Apalachicola National Forest, three-and-a-half miles away from residents in the Fort Braden community has contaminated the ground water. This site received low-level nuclear waste from 1967 to 1979.

Contaminants at this site in the ground water include 1,4 dioxane, radium 226, radium 228, xylenes, aluminum, cesium-137, lead-210, lead 212, lead-214 and tritium.

The Screening Level Risk Assessment determined ,“There are unacceptable risks to human health at the site from high concentrations of these contaminants.”

This contradicts FSU Vice President for Research Gary Ostrander who reportedly told Tallahassee Democrat reporter Byron Dobson, “there has been no human exposure or elevated risks to human or ecosystem health associated with site conditions.”

As for human health, it is abundantly clear that Black citizens in Leon County have a higher risk of dying from cancer than their white counterparts. In 2020 for every 100 white people who died from cancer in Leon County, 136 Black people died.

Shouldn't public health and FSU officials at least ask “Why?”

Questions remain. How much radioactive dirt remains at the Tallahassee site? What was the source of the gamma radiation that was too dangerous to ship from Tallahassee to Utah? Where is it now? What did FSU do with it?

Have the people potentially exposed to the radiation generated by FSU been monitored on a continuing basis for cancer? If not, why not?

Was any kind of cancer surveillance plan put in place for the benefit of the residents in Callen, Providence, or the residents approximately three miles to the north of the contaminated groundwater in the Apalachicola National Forest? This is near the Fort Braden community in Leon County.

Finally, what is the evidence that the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) was ever implemented? This Act mandates the following: Inform the public of the environmental issues associated with the site; involve the public in the decision-making process that will affect them; involve the public in the responses under consideration to remedy these issues, and inform the public of the progress being made to implement the remedy.

It is clear from these requirements that FSU has not complied with this Act.

It therefore raises the question as to whether FSU's behavior has been illegal in regard to their contamination of the groundwater, their subsequent behavior and their total disregard for the wellbeing of the residents who may have been adversely affected.

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