U.S. Judge Approves Fernald Plant Settlement
CINCINNATI (AP) _ A federal judge has approved the Department of Energy’s $78 million settlement offer in a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of 14,000 people who live near the government’s Fernald uranium plant.
U.S. District Judge S. Arthur Spiegel ruled Friday that the offer made by the Energy Department, which owns the Feed Materials Processing Center, was fair and reasonable.
The offer, which was made June 30, settles a $300 million claim by neighbors who said the plant lowered their property values and inflicted emotional suffering. The settlement includes money for long-term medical monitoring of potential health risks to nearby residents. It also calls for the government to deposit the money in a court-supervised fund by Oct. 15.
″It was like everything fell into place, and it was really good,″ said Lisa Crawford of the Fernald Residents for Environmental Safety and Health, or FRESH.
″From the beginning we thought it was a good and fair settlement. We never had any problem with it,″ Mrs. Crawford said.
Mrs. Crawford and her husband filed the lawsuit in January 1985. In September 1986, the lawsuit was certified as a class-action claim representing the residents and businesses within five miles of the plant.
Spiegel rejected the Energy Department’s contention that the settlement relieves the government from other claims that the plant’s neighbors might make for reimbursement of property cleanup costs. He said the neighbors are still free to file separate legal claims.
The 38-year-old plant located 18 miles northwest of Cincinnati processes uranium for use in nuclear reactors and weapons.
Stanley Chesley, the lead lawyer for the residents, has said lawyers expect the monitoring will last 30 to 40 years and track such things as lung cancer and kidney diseases usually associated with uranium pollution. The monitoring must still be approved by a court-appointed master.