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Radiation Lawsuit Settled Out Of Court

April 2, 1985 GMT

CANONSBURG, Pa. (AP) _ One of 33 people who sued the government and owners of a uranium processing center refused her share of a $300,000 settlement, saying it won’t solve potential problems of radiation-related illness.

Radioactive wastes from the processing of uranium are buried at the site of the former Vitro Rare Metals plant, a historic facility once visited by Marie Curie and which played a part in the Manhattan Project for the atomic bomb.

Residents attempted a class action suit in 1982, asking that hundreds of people living within a mile of the plant be certified as a class.They alleged that radioactive wastes damaged their health and lowered property values.

U.S. District Judge Glenn E. Mencer refused to certify the class, and a settlement was paid to the plaintiffs last November. All but Janis Dunn shared in the $300,000 settlement, reduced to $175,200 after legal and other expenses.

″We don’t know the truth of the health problems in Canonsburg,″ said Ms. Dunn, who moved to nearby Eighty Four after the government bought her home. ″The problem is not going to die with this generation. It’s going to live on in the bodies of our children.″

Plaintiffs’ attorney Bruce A. Antkowiak said Monday he was ″pleased that some compensation has been given to the plaintiffs.″

The defendants included GK Technologies, successor to Vitro Corp. of America, which operated the plant as Vitro Rare Metals.

One woman, who asked that her name not be used, said she withdrew from the suit because she ″just couldn’t stand the pressure of it.″

″Everybody’s just trying to forget,″ she said. ″It’s like beating your head against a stone wall.″

The U.S. Department of Energy, which is encapsulating more than 200,000 tons of radioactive waste in a clay liner buried several feet beneath the surface, has said radiation from the deposits is too low to be dangerous.

The residents argued that the effects of long-term exposure to low levels of radiation are not known. Antkowiak said the settlement was reached while any connection between the buried radiation and local illnesses was still ″greatly in dispute.″

The 32 parties included St. Patrick’s School, which the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese moved from Canonsburg because of fear its students would be endangered.

Marie Curie once visited the site to obtain radium, and Vitro participated in the Manhattan Project, which produced the first atomic bomb in World War II. The former Atomic Energy Commission later used the site for storage.

Under the settlement, the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese received $45,000; 10 residents whose homes were located on contaminated property received $8,190 each; eight residents whose property was not contaminated received $4,275 each; seven persons with non-property claims received $1,500 each; and six families whose homes were bought by the government received $600 each.