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There's Radioactive Waste in Western Palm Beach County, Law Firm Warns

If you live in western Palm Beach County, you may want to be concerned about possible radioactive contamination in the area, the law firm of Searcy, Denney Scarola Barnhart and Shipley warned late Friday.

In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control confirmed there had been a cluster of children living in the Acreage, which is northwest of West Palm Beach near Loxahatchee Groves, who developed pediatric brain cancers between 2004-2007.

In the past four years, the firm has been doing research for related lawsuits. The law firm says that lab tests have found radioactive material in the area from industrial uses -- and that these contaminants might harm the public, especially during severe weather events. The law firm says the state health department has been warned, but done nothing.

As part of Friday's announcement, Searcy Denney announced that it has filed "individual injury and death claims and a class action" on behalf of its clients. Defendants in the lawsuits are Pratt & Whitney and Palm Beach Aggregates, a mining company.

The law firm says it has been doing research on the site for four years, and that recent testing by Pace Analytical Laboratory "disclosed the presence of both Technologically Enhanced concentrations of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (TE-NORM) and non-naturally occurring radioactive materials in concentrations that, in some cases, significantly exceed the U.S. EPA maximum contaminant level (MCL). These findings were analyzed and confirmed by Boston Chemical Data Corp. There is no plausible explanation for the results other than industrial contamination."

The law firm noted that people might be alarmed -- as they were when news of the cancer clusters began to dribble out several years ago -- but that the public must know.

"While we have significant clinical information at hand, the seriousness and geographic scope of the present threat, and the extent to which contamination is occurring on an ongoing basis, is still being investigated," added Searcy Denney attorney Mara Hatfield. "We know that a historical contamination existed. As alleged in the lawsuits we filed, this historical contamination caused the cancer cluster and the injuries our clients have already suffered. We have taken appropriate action to preserve their rights. However, if there is an ongoing source of radiation, or if the threat has diminished but will recur every time there's an adverse weather event, then we need all the help we can get to isolate and remediate the problem, and to provide the public with the protection and guidance it must have."

A statement from the law firm says that "Pratt Whitney failed to safely use and maintain potentially cancer-causing radionuclides and emitted these materials into surface and ground waters in the Acreage. The suits also claim that, from 2003 until September 2008, the Aggregates continued a dredging process that increased dangerous TE-NORM levels."

There will be a press conference Monday.

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Deirdra Funcheon

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