Officials Say Internet Rumors To Evacuate Due To Radioactive Lea - KWES NewsWest 9 / Midland, Odessa, Big Spring, TX: newswest9.com |

Officials Say Internet Rumors To Evacuate Due To Radioactive Leak Are False

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Anum Valliani
NewsWest 9

TEXAS/NEW MEXICO - Many viewers in West Texas and New Mexico have been calling our newsroom since the weekend with concerns that they needed to evacuate due to a radioactive leak at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) east of Carlsbad. It's all because multiple websites are saying that people within a 100 mile radius of the plant need to evacuate. However, the Sheriff's Office and officials at the WIPP Plant have confirmed that this is not true at all.
  
The U.S. Environmental protection agency found traces of the elements Americium and Plutonium at the WIPP site back in February. In large doses, those could be harmful but officials said it wasn't enough to pose a threat to the public. Still, several workers were exposed to it.

But now some sites are claiming something else that people within a 100 mile radius of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant need to evacuate. Both sites, one at www.politicalears.com and the other on www.turnerradionetwork.com, feature a large headline telling people to be ready to evacuate. Then they show a large red circle around the area they believe to be in danger.

Our viewers have definitely fallen for the setup.

Kat Esparza wrote, "maybe this explains all the strange health issues I have seen lately." And according to Vanessa Viera, "We were there visiting the Caverns this past week and my daughter felt nauseated, I think I need to get her checked out." 

But officials say the fear comes from the bad reputation radioactivity has with nuclear warfare and also because we just can't sense the material.

According to Russell Hardy, the Director at the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring & Research Center, "People are taking information and they're just blowing it out of proportion. We live with rattlesnakes all the time, and yes they're dangerous, but we can see them and we can hear them most of the time when we get close. This is much less dangerous than a rattlesnake, yet because we can't see it, smell it, hear it, taste it, it scares us because we don't know when it's going to get us or how it's going to impact us."

Even in the worse case scenario, if someone was standing where the chemicals were detected on the day they were released and continued to ingest them. That person would have as much radiation in their system as someone who was flying on a plane for about three to five hours. In fact, it's less than what you would get if you went to the hospital and got a chest x-ray.

Some of our viewers expressed criticism towards the legitimacy of sources online. People like Patrick Alexander didn't believe the sites right off the bat. He stated that his skepticism starts with the maps. "Those big red circles aren't even centered on the WIPP site!" He writes, adding that, "We should not be too concerned about warnings of threats from WIPP that come from people who don't even know where WIPP is.

If you take a closer look at these red dots comparing what the sites show to be the affected area, one covers Odessa, the other doesn't.  Officials think people could be pushing a personal agenda.

"There's people out there who are anti-nuclear. Again because its first use was as a weapon so they're distrustful of any use of nuclear energy," Hardy said.

For those who are afraid or believe the government may be covering something up, Hardy said you can look to the Environmental Monitoring and Research Center.

"There's no hidden agenda," he said. "We're independent. We're paid to just gather the data and release it regardless of whether it's good, bad or indifferent."

NewsWest 9 received an official statement from officials at WIPP saying that the Internet rumors about the safety concerns are inaccurate. It states in part, "There is absolutely no basis for these rumors. Monitoring conducted by Nuclear Waste Partnership of air, soil, water and vegetation are showing no radiation releases that would approach levels causing health concerns. Independent monitoring by the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center has reached similar conclusions."

There will be a regularly scheduled Town Hall meeting Thursday at 5:30 at the Carlsbad City Council where findings to date will be discussed in detail. You can go online to the New Mexico Environmental Department website here (http://www.nmenv.state.nm.us/wipp/) to catch up on the latest news on the leak at WIPP.