News 12 at 6 o'clock, June 20, 2007
BURKE CTY, Ga.---The number of people dying from cancer in Burke County is on the rise, and one group says a nuclear plant may be to blame.
A new study released by the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League shows the number of people dying of cancer in Burke County has shot up 25%, while the rest of country's cancer rate was on the decline.
"If I lived in this county I'd want to know why these numbers are increasing," said Louis Zeller with Blue Ridge.
The study is a side by side comparison of before and after Plant Vogtle opened up two nuclear reactors in the Waynesboro area. It finds that since the plant began its operation, the levels of radioactivity in the environment shot up across the board.
Georgia Power spokeswoman Carol Boatright says the governmental agency regulating them has never raised this issue before. "If there were concerns of strong evidence the plants were producing a problem for the residents I'm sure we'd hear about it by now," she said.
But the most startling statistic is the change in infant mortality. In Burke County the number of infant deaths increased 70% compared to the other surrounding counties in the CSRA. But even the backers of the study admit waste from other plants could be contributing to the problem.
"It's like a crime being committed, but too many suspects to find out for certain what the source of the problem might be," said Zeller.
The organization launched the study in December after the Southern Company announced plans last year to expand their existing two nuclear reactors by creating two more. It's a move some in the community say needs to be stopped. "I think you need to start looking at people over profits at some point," said resident Judy Stocker.
The league plans to present the findings to the Department of Health as well as the Public Service Commission in the next few months. They've filed a lawsuit to block the plant from getting a permit to allow further expansion in the area.
Georgia Power says they will review the findings presented today. The company has also offered the following documents in rebuttal:
Georgia Power and Southern Nuclear Operating Company's response to the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League Study of the effects of Plant Vogtle on Burke County residents.
The Medical University of South Carolina and Emory University's study of cancer rates in the Savannah River Region from 1991 through 1995, indicating that cancer rates in the area were the same or lower than those of other areas.