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  • No problems found with River Valley radiation sampling

    Three investigations found no basis for a North Carolina man's allegations that test results were doctored.

    Friday, January 28, 2000

    Tom Sheehan
    Dispatch Staff Reporter

    MARION, Ohio -- Three separate investigations have concluded that a subcontractor performed a satisfactory radiation survey at River Valley High School and its adjacent middle school in 1998.

    Several agencies, including the Ohio Department of Health, reviewed work done by Safety and Ecology Corp. of Knoxville, Tenn., after claims were made that data obtained in the survey were altered. The survey at the schools, which was performed under the direction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, found no unusual radiation levels.

    However, Jed Ball, a worker involved in the radiation testing, later made allegations that the results were not reliable.

    Ruth H. Vandegrift, a supervisor with the state Health Department, released that agency's report last night at a meeting of an advisory board of community and government agency members who regularly discuss toxic waste and other contamination issues involving River Valley.

    The schools are located at a former World War II Army depot.

    The report concluded that Ball's accusations "were not confirmed through the review of the data or through interviews conducted . . . with the other field personnel.''

    A consultant hired by the Health Department also reported last night that it had found nothing wrong with the way the survey was conducted.

    Paul Johnson, a certified health physicist with Maryland-based B. Koh and Associates, told a group of several dozen people at River Valley High School that his company investigated the survey results and protocols used in conducting the survey.

    An extensive survey was conducted at the campus because the Health Department, in an earlier inspection, had found a dime-sized disc painted with radium in the front lawn of the school. The disc was probably some sort of military marker.

    Kevin Jasper, who is heading the corps' investigation of toxic-waste contamination on the school site, said a separate investigation by the U.S. Army Center for Health, Promotion and Preventive Medicine, uncovered no problems with the radiation survey.

    However, the Army Criminal Investigation Command is continuing its investigation of possible criminal charges.

    "I think we all should be happy with this and move forward,'' Jasper said. "Radiation on the surface (at the school site) is not an issue.''

    Jodi Griffith, a River Valley parent and member of the advisory board, was not satisfied.

    During a break in the meeting, she said, "This guy (Ball) was trying to get something accomplished here. He was trying to go through the proper channels.''

    She and Jim Shade, another advisory board member, said Ball, of Ulla, N.C., had to be motivated by some reason to raise these accusations.

    Johnson and Vandegrift said they both interviewed Ball, but could offer no explanation for his motivation.

    Ball, who could not be reached for comment last night, had sent an e-mail message to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency last summer questioning the radiation survey. He said radiation levels were found that exceeded surrounding areas, but that reports were doctored to make the readings normal.

    The EPA forwarded the message to the Health Department, which has authority over radiation investigations.

    The investigation into environmental contamination on the school site began more than two years ago after some community members raised questions about a high rate of leukemia among graduates of the high school.

    The investigation has revealed that part of the Army depot was used as a dump for spent solvents and other chemical wastes.


    Copyright © 2000, The Columbus Dispatch