A man claims in a federal lawsuit that contamination from a Pike County uranium plant caused his cancer

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — A Pike County man has filed a federal lawsuit claiming radioactive contamination from a former uranium enrichment plant caused his leukemia.

According to the lawsuit, Joshua Shaw grew up within a couple of miles of the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Pike County, which for decades produced enriched uranium for military and commercial use.

During this time, buildings, soil and groundwater at the site were contaminated with radiation. A massive cleanup operation has been underway for many years.

Shaw is suing a former operator of the plant, which is now overseeing the cleanup, and several companies involved in the cleanup.

The sun sets over the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Pike County, Ohio on May 6, 2019.  Earlier this week, a number of Pike County residents filed a lawsuit alleging more than 2,000 people are adversely affected by the release of radioactive materials from the plant.
The sun sets over the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Pike County, Ohio on May 6, 2019. [Jordan Kelley | WOUB]
The lawsuit alleges that during the cleanup operation radioactive materials have spread into the surrounding community.

In 2019, a middle school close to the site was closed after enriched uranium was detected inside a classroom.

Cancer rates in the communities around the plant are among the highest in the state, according to the lawsuit.

Shaw’s father worked at the plant and carried radioactive dust into the family home, the lawsuit alleges. The lawsuit also suggests Shaw may have been exposed to radioactive materials by drinking water from the family’s well, eating vegetables grown in the family garden and eating meat from animals hunted nearby.

Shaw was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2008 and was treated with chemotherapy, according to the lawsuit. The fatigue caused by the treatment and recovery caused him to miss work for several years and he continues to suffer from the aftereffects of the disease, the lawsuit alleges.

Two similar lawsuits have been filed by people who lived near the plant, one last year by a man diagnosed with lymphoma and the other by the father of a boy who died from leukemia.

Also pending in federal court is a class action filed in 2019 by residents, several of them children, who live within a couple of miles of the Piketon plant. The plaintiffs allege the plant has contaminated the surrounding community with radioactive materials and are suing to get it cleaned up.

WOUB reached out to Centrus Energy and Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth, two of the defendants in Shaw’s lawsuit, but did not receive a response by the time this story was published. Centrus is overseeing the cleanup of the Piketon plant and Fluor-BWXT is responsible for the environmental remediation.