NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - A FOX 8 investigation uncovers new documents regarding the radioactive material found under a Gert Town street. One document says there is still Radium-226 and other contaminants in the ground. But, one state agency says a sweep of the neighborhood just yesterday found no issues.
According to an incident report to the National Response Center, a call was made on June 25th of this year, to report that Radium-226 and other radioactive material was left in bins in a Gert Town neighborhood after crews removed it from the ground.
That report was made nearly a month after a contractor excavated the radioactive waste from under Lowerline Street. But, according to the document Fox 8 obtained through a public records request, there’s a section titled “sensitive information.”
It says “The city attorney stated there is Radium 226 and other contaminants still in the ground. The attorney stated that removing it will make matters worse.”
We reached out to the City and asked if the city attorney made that statement. And, if so, where did he get that information from?
The city did not answer our questions but Director of Communications Beau Tidwell emailed Fox 8 this statement:
"As we have repeatedly stated: this administration began taking appropriate action upon learning of this issue, and took every step to inform residents appropriately. The removal process was handled by the EPA, as was appropriate, and --- per the LDEQ--- potential exposure levels did NOT reach or exceed dangerous thresholds.
This matter is currently the subject of litigation. The daily efforts by the attorney seeking to collect fees from a class-action suit will be addressed through appropriate legal communications. The City acted to protect our residents and to inform them appropriately.” - Beau Tidwell, Director of Communications.
We also received this statement from an EPA spokesperson:
“The radiation contamination was located 30 inches below street surface. The 10,000 microRem/hr reading was a 3 inch diameter spot measured at street surface. This was not an ambient reading and therefore no shielding or evacuation was necessary. The radiation contamination has been removed and transported to an appropriate disposal facility. Once the material was removed, the EPA radiation scanner vehicle conducted area scans of over 32 miles of residential streets in Gert Town and surrounding areas. We did not find additional radiation contamination. There is no on-going harmful radiation exposure to residents.”
An attorney representing hundreds of plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against the City of New Orleans and the remediation company initially hired to remove the radioactive waste had strong words about the incident report.
“I’ve never seen anything so f****** stupid in my life,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Madro Bandaries.
Bandaries says if the city attorney had information that residents’ health was at risk, as a lawyer there’s a duty to report it.
“And, here to get around that they just call it sensitive information and here we’re all looking at it in a FOIA request because that makes it un-sensitive, this is a sad state of affairs for the legal department of this state,” said Bandaries.
We also reached out to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality about the sensitive information cited in that June incident report.
A LDEQ spokesperson says:
“This is an excerpt from a report to another agency. I have no comment on it. A post-removal sweep was completed Thursday, July 18, and we found no issues.”