SURVEYOR INSISTS MARION RADIATION STUDY IS INACCURATE

Date: Saturday, January 29, 2000
Section: NEWS
Page: 07B
Byline:
Tom Sheehan
Source:
Dispatch Staff Reporter


Jed Ball refuses to waver despite three investigations that challenge his allegations that a radiation survey he helped perform in 1998 at River Valley schools near Marion, Ohio, was doctored so that radiation levels appeared normal.

The investigations released Thursday at a meeting in Marion concluded that a Tennessee subcontractor, working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, performed a satisfactory survey at River Valley High School and its adjacent middle school.

"It's a surprise to me,'' Ball said yesterday from his home in Ulla, N.C.

"They haven't forwarded any information to me. I will take a lie-detector test if they want. There's no way that that survey could have been accurate.''

One of the investigative reports was released by the Ohio Department of Health, which has authority over radiation investigations in the state.

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

That finding drew a laugh from Ball. He said the other workers, who all had little experience, were interviewed in the presence of the owner of the subcontracting company and its attorney.

"What were they going to say?'' he said. "Now you know why technicians don't come forth in this industry'' to speak out if they think something was done improperly.

Ruth Vandegrift, a supervisor with the Health Department, said yesterday that Ball's allegations were taken "extremely seriously.''

She said the Health Department and an independent consultant found nothing wrong. She said officials are confident there are no radiation problems at the schools.

Ball sent an e-mail last summer to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency questioning the survey. He said reports were doctored to make it appear as though there were no unusual radiation levels on the campus. His e-mail was forwarded to the Health Department.

In 1997, the department found a dime-sized disc painted with radium in the front lawn of the high school. The two schools are located at a former World War II-era Army depot. Concerns over environmental contamination, coupled with questions about a high rate of leukemia among graduates of the high school, resulted in the corps and other agencies launching an investigation of the 78-acre school site more than two years ago.

Safety and Ecology Corp. of Knoxville, Tenn., investigated the radiation issue.

Ball said he has 10 years of experience and still works in the radiation field. He said he expects nothing more will be done about possible radiation on the school grounds.

"I think they're going to try and drop it and move on,'' he said. "What they're doing is wrong. There's no doubt in my mind and heart.''

The Army Criminal Investigation Command is continuing its investigation of possible criminal charges in the case.

Ball said he was contacted two weeks ago by the agency and told investigators he would take a lie-detector test if the same test and questions were administered to the other people who participated in the survey. He said he has not heard any more from investigators.

Kevin Jasper, who is directing the corps' investigation in Marion, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

On Thursday, he said he was pleased with the results of the investigations and that they backed up what Safety and Ecology Corp. had determined in its survey.



All content herein is © 2000 The Columbus Dispatch and may not be republished without permission.