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Larger NUMEC lawsuit weighed

Mary Ann Thomas
| Monday, Feb. 8, 2010

One of the country's largest plaintiff law firms might initiate a second major lawsuit against two former nuclear fuels plants that once operated in Armstrong County.

About 275 residents attended a Wednesday meeting with law firm representatives at the United Steelworkers Union Hall in Leechburg, environmental activist Patty Ameno said.

"These were people who came looking for answers," said Ameno, who leads Citizens Action for a Safe Environment, which sponsored the meeting.

Ameno brought in representatives of the law firm Motley Rice, which negotiated the multi-billion dollar settlement with the tobacco industry, to explore a local lawsuit claiming damages from the former nuclear fuels plants, which operated from 1957-86 in Apollo and Parks.

The firm recently filed a case for three local residents seeking damages from the plants.

"We are still investigating a larger case," said Jonathan Orent, a lawyer with Motley Rice in Providence, R.I. "We are not going to put a time limit on our investigation. We want to make sure there is medical evidence for each claimant."

The plaintiffs in the latest federal lawsuit were diagnosed with cancer in the past few years.

"Those individuals were not able to be covered in the last lawsuit because they had not manifested the diseases," Orent said.

The suit names the same defendants as one filed in the 1990s and eventually settled for $80 million -- Babcock & Wilcox Power Generation Group and Atlantic Richfield. The plants originally were operated by the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corp.

Tom Mueller, a press officer for BP America in Houston, which owns the Atlantic Richfield Co., said in an e-mail that the company had not seen the suit and had no comment.

Jud Simmons, public relations manager for B&W said that his company does not comment on active litigation.

Additional Information:

Lawsuit history

The nuclear fuel operations of the former Babcock & Wilcox and its predecessors, the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corp. and the Atlantic Richfield Co. in Apollo and Parks has been the subject of several major lawsuits and special status from the federal government for the company's workers.

• In the mid-1990s, Dallas-based attorney Fred Baron filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of 365 residents claiming wrongful death, personal injury and damages from the former nuclear fuel plants. In the last two years, settlements were reached for $52.5 million from B&W and $27.5 million from co-defendant Atlantic Richfield.

• The Rhode Island law firm Motley Rice filed a federal lawsuit on Jan. 29 on behalf of three Kiski Valley residents against the same defendants as the Baron case for wrongful death, personal injury and damages.

• Former employees at the Apollo and Parks Township plants were granted special status in the last several years by the federal government to receive cash and medical benefits for work-related cancers and other illnesses. The payout was part of the federal government's Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Act program.

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