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Two class action lawsuits were filed Wednesday against more than a dozen contractors who have operated the Oak Ridge, Tenn., nuclear weapons complex since World War II. Lawyer George Barrett said one suit deals with the “health hazards that were created and have never been properly addressed.” The other asks redress for “the deliberate creation of a racially segregated community which has been preserved up to this time in violation of the Constitution and the laws of Tennessee.” The suits, filed in U.S. District Court in Knoxville, seek unspecified damages, medical monitoring, and a public apology. The plaintiffs include former employees, residents and their children. A health study released a year ago suggested that some Oak Ridge residents may have suffered thyroid cancer or brain damage because of toxic releases, particularly from the 1940s to early 1960s. The study, prepared by the state and underwritten by the Department of Energy, estimated that fewer than 100 people may have developed those ailments. The facilities include the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the former K-25 uranium enrichment plant, which is now an industrial park. The lawsuits claim hazardous, toxic and radioactive releases from the plants damaged or threatened the health of residents living in Oak Ridge or downwind or downstream of the plants. They seek “a public apology for deliberately irradiating the public and exposing them to deadly radioactive and hazardous materials without their consent.” In addition, one of the lawsuits claims blacks who relocated to Oak Ridge for work in the 1950s were moved into the Scarboro community, where they were exposed to high levels of pollutants from the Y-12 plant about a mile away. The neighborhood remains predominantly black. In 1999, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said it could not substantiate claims of a higher incidence of respiratory problems among Scarboro children because of where they live. The CDC said that 13 percent of 119 Scarboro children surveyed had asthma, compared to a national rate of about 7 percent. The Scarboro rate, however, was about the same as that for children living in Detroit. Listed as defendants in the lawsuits are: Union Carbide Corp., Monsanto Co., Eastman Kodak Co., Eastman Chemical Co., the University of Chicago, Roane-Anderson Co., Turner Construction Co., Martin-Marietta Energy Systems Inc., Lockheed Martin, Lockheed Martin Energy Systems, Babcock & Wilcox Co., McDermott International Inc. and Bechtel Inc. Also named are present laboratory manager Battelle Inc. and Y-12 manager BWX Technologies. Company spokesmen did not return calls seeking comment. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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