OAK HARBOR -- More than 50 area residents
ventured to the St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church Thursday
night to hear about possible radioactive exposure from the
Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station.
However, the featured speaker, Dr. Donald Zeigler, was vague in
answering residents' questions and admitted he was not familiar with
either the region or the county's emergency response plan.
Touted by sponsor Ohio Citizen Action as an "expert in emergency
response and evacuation plans," Zeigler told the crowd Thursday he
hadn't researched the topic in more than 10 years.
Zeigler, a native of Harrisburg, Pa., took interest in emergency
evacuation plans after the Three Mile Island nuclear plant accident
there in the late 1970s. And while he researched the topic
extensively for about 20 years after the accident occurred, he is
now a geography and political science professor at Old Dominion
University in Norfolk, Va.
During Thursday's meeting, Zeigler was especially critical of
utility companies who try to tell residents what or what not to do
in the case of a nuclear accident, saying that they had a vested
interest in how the people would react to such a situation.
"Don't expect that just because information comes from a utility
company that it is necessarily good information," he told the crowd.
That comment -- and the entire meeting in general -- drew the ire
of Richard Wilkins, a spokesman for FirstEnergy, the owner and
operator of Davis-Besse.
"I don't think the people of Ottawa County -- in any emergency --
are going to call on pressure groups like (Ohio Citizen Action) for
help," he said after the meeting. "I think they're going to count on
their emergency management agencies -- not a geography professor
Beatrice Miringu, program director for Ohio Citizen Action
defended Zeigler, as well as her organization's intentions in
calling the meeting.
"The purpose of this meeting was to share information," she said.
"This community has a nuclear power plant in their back yard, and
it's really important that they know how to respond if something
"It doesn't matter where (Zeigler) is from. This speaks to all
communities, and when a person like Dr. Zeigler has looked at and
researched other areas like this one, it's very powerful."
Zeigler criticized evacuation plans in general, saying many are
based on a natural hazard model and fail to take into consideration
the interest of the people who will be most affected.
"We need to go out on the street and ask the people what they
would do if there was ever a problem, and use that as a basis for
your evacuation plan," he said. "No one has done that. Nothing has
changed in over a decade."
Joan Hockett of Port Clinton, who attended the meeting, said she
attended because she is concerned that she lives only four miles
from the Carroll Township plant.
"I've been concerned about the situation at Davis-Besse for some
time," she said. "It's been even more of a concern since September
11. The more you know, the more you get concerned, and this is
turning into a very serious situation."