Investigators probing the Three Mile Island accident ignored at least one study contradicting their radiation findings and also severely under-stated the number of farmers blaming animal and crop problems on the reactor, the Baltimore News-American reported today.
The product of a three-month investigation, the copyrighted stories said that several follow-up studies promised by various state and federal agencies have never occurred, either because of lack of funding or interest or both. Residents of the Middletown, Pa., area are embittered and cynical about government as a result, the articles said.
Although the official reports said that radiation from the March 28, 1979, accident was minuscule and would have no appreciable health effect, the newspaper unearthed two independent studies that found slightly higher levels of radioactive iodine that was later reported, although none that went above levels considered safe.
One was a sampling of cows' milk in a 20-mile radius of the plant by K. K. S. Pillay, a Pennsylvania State Univeristy associate professor of nuclear engineering. He found seven of his 67 samples that showed 1,200 picocuries of radioactive iodine per liter, far higher than the government's highest reading of 41 piocuries, although still well below the federal safety limit of 12,000 picocuries.
That study was never reported to the government because it was done for private clients.
Another study was reported to officials but they ignored it. In this one, Norman Chupp, Harrisburg regional manager for the U.S. Bureau of Fish and Wildlife, checked the thyroids of rabbits, meadow mice and pheasants from the area for concentrations of radioactive iodine. He found some with levels of 161 picocuries, far above the maximum of 5 officials had previously reported.
The articles said perhaps 40 percent of farmers in the area have animal and crop problems that they blame on Three Mile Island, far more than the 5 percent reported in a state Department of Agriculture survey.
"The surveyors were wrong. Their data were wrong. Their conclusions were wrong," the newspaper concluded after interviewing dozens of farmers.