Jerry McClurkin and her family grow everthing from Jerusalem artichokes to soy beans and wheat in the side lot of their Takoma Park home. They grow virtually all of their own food because they are concerned about contamination by pesticides and other toxins.
But now McClurkin says she has worried about possible affects of radiation on her crops since she learned that radioactive materials are being transported through the area.
"We've been worried about all our food since Three Mile Island," said McClurkin.
Many citizens, like Joan Prosten, say they are concerned about the possibility of accidents involving radioactive shipments. Prosten added that "what's really scary" is that federal and local authorities do not keep tabs on the shipment of low-level waste.
About 25 Takoma Park residents met recently with members of the Beltway Alliance for Safe Energy, an anti-nuclear group, to discuss ways to spread the word that radioactive material are being transported through Montgomery County.
The strategy meeting was organized after an earlier public forum where citizens learned that nuclear transports travel through this area by both highway and railroad en route to dumping grounds in South Carolina.
According to Michael Anderson of the Hittman Corporation, his company ships low-level radioactive materials from power plants north of Washington, down I-95 and around the Beltway.
But Anderson said there is no way to know which route the transports take through the county because the choice is left to the individual trucker.
Officials at the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Energy say they are aware that shipments pass through this area. But they say they have no estimates on the size or frequency of the shipments.
Prince George's County legislation passed this spring, and scheduled to go into effect in October, tends to support the claims of federal officials as well as those of the Beltway Alliance.
"While it is unknown exactly how many and what kinds of radioactive shipments are trasported into, within, through and out of Prince George's County," the bill reads, "there is persuasive evidence that the volume of these shipments and their levels of hazard are substantial and are expected to increase rapidly in the foreseeable future."
The Mongomery County citizens say they will lobby for a bill similar to the Prince George's legislation, which requires companies to post bond covering the cost of possible hazards or accidents.
The federal government does not make public information on the transport of spent fuel containing plutonium as a safeguard against sabotage, according to a Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman. As a result the Takoma Park citizens have no way to document such shipments through their neighborhoods.
But they do know that "low level" transports, which include radioactive materials for medical and industrial use, travel regularly through the county. Their information comes from a study made by the Potomac Alliance, a group which lobbies for stricter control of radioactive materials shipment. The alliance has quoted a Department of Energy spokesman as saying that 10 percent of the 2 1/2 million packages of radioactive material shipped in the country ever year travel along the east coast through or near the Washington Metropolitan area.
The Takoma Park group considers its educational campaign the first step toward urging the Montgomery County Council to pass legislation regulating the transports. They also would like to see an anti-transport resolution passed by the City of Takoma Park.
County officials say that although they are investigating the problem, legislation has not yet been proposed.