Why didn’t state notify Estill County of illegal radioactive dump right away?


FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The state didn’t notify Estill County officials for at least two weeks after learning that radioactive waste was illegally dumped in a landfill across from two schools. Estill County officials wanted to know why the state didn’t tell them right away and so did ABC 36 News, so we went to Frankfort for answers.

The Kentucky Department for Public Health says the reason the state didn’t tell Estill County officials as soon as it learned of the illegal dumping at Blue Ridge landfill is because the state radiation branch did an assessment at the site and didn’t find any above normal radiation levels, so there wasn’t any risk to the public.

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Estill County officials say they weren’t told until last Thursday, February 25, that 1,500 tons of low-level radioactive waste had been illegally dumped in the landfill across from the county high school and middle school.

A West Virginia-based company is accused of dumping the waste by container from July 2015 to November 2015, according to Estill County officials.

The state says it doesn’t believe there is an ongoing health risk at the site because the material is buried. The state did say had there been any health risk at all, the county would have been notified immediately.

“I think we were trying to put the pieces together about what had actually been dumped at this particular site. At one point, we were just trying to find what sites, and actually that’s part of our investigation, just trying to put the pieces together, and what material it might be,” said Kraig Humbaugh, Deputy Commissioner, Kentucky Department of Public Health.

Humbaugh went on to say there’s still a lot to figure out, including if the people who work at the landfill are at risk and if so, what kind of exposure to the radioactive waste.

There’s a public forum scheduled for Tuesday, March 1, at 6:00 p.m., at Estill County High School where officials will answer questions and address concerns.

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Tom Kenny joined ABC 36 News in June of 2001 as a General Assignment Reporter. A native of Peoria, Illinois, he graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications from Western Illinois University. He currently anchors ABC 36 News at 5pm, 6pm and 11pm. Tom has more than three decades of experience in broadcast journalism. He is the only broadcast journalist in Lexington television history to be honored with a national Edward R. Murrow Award. Tom was recognized for reporting on a story that gave a rare glimpse inside the secretive world of the Federal Witness Protection Program. He has won an Emmy Award for anchoring and another for investigative reporting, exposing the deceit and potential danger of online diploma mills. Tom has ten other Emmy nominations to his credit for investigative and feature reporting. He has won Associated Press Awards for reporting and anchoring. He has won two Addy Awards for excellence in promotional writing. Tom was the first broadcast journalist in Lexington TV history to be awarded the Silver Circle Award by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. It is one of the highest honors given by NATAS. It recognizes television professionals who have performed distinguished service within the television industry for 25-years or more. Tom was honored for more than his longevity, he was recognized for making an enduring contribution to the vitality of the television industry and for setting high standards of achievement. He was also recognized for giving back to the community as a mentor, educator and volunteer. Tom also has network broadcast experience in radio and television having worked as a sports reporter for ESPN, Sportschannel, NBC Sports and the Breeders’ Cup. He was also the studio host and halftime producer for CBS Radio Sports’ College Football Game of the Week and covered the NFL for One-On-One Radio Sports. Prior to joining WTVQ-TV, Tom was Vice-President of the Houston Astros Minor League baseball team in Lexington. He was part of the original management team that brought professional baseball back to the Bluegrass after a nearly 50-year absence. Tom has lived in Lexington since 1984. In that time, he has been heavily involved with dozens of charity and civic groups, with a special emphasis on helping Veterans. He can be reached at tkenny@wtvq.com. You can also follow Tom on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomKennyABC and Twitter @TomKennyNews. Just click on the links at the top of the page.