Newspaper: The Patriot
Date: March 29, 1979
Title: Royalton Never Got the Word
Author: Jon Harwood, Staff Writer
The Dauphin County borough of Royalton, situated less than three miles from the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station, never received official notification of Wednesday’s radiation leak at the plant, borough officials said.
Mayor Charles Erisman was notified of the incident by a borough employee and a Patriot reporter after 11 a.m. Wednesday, seven hours after the incident and three hours after a countywide evacuation alert had been cancelled.
“I don’t see why they overlooked something like that when we’re closer (to the plant) than Middletown,” said Erisman, who is responsible for coordinating the borough’s Civil Defense efforts. Middletown borough, situated immediately north of Royalton, was informed of problems at the plant shortly after 7:30 a.m., officials said.
“The breeze (carrying radiation) could just as easily blow in our direction,” he said.
Erisman said he heard on the police radio that streets were being barricaded because of congested traffic near the plant, but “that’s the only thing we got.” He added that he visited the plant during the day and discussed the situation with state police officials.
DAUPHIN COUNTY Civil Defense Director Kevin J. Molloy said he was under the impression that Middletown had informed Royalton officials of the situation at the plant.
“Yes, but they didn’t,” Erisman said.
“We’ll have to look into that,” Molloy said.
Another county borough that claimed to have received late notification was Highspire. Acting Police Chief William R. Youtz said that the county communication center called him between 9:30 and 10 a.m. “to tell us everything was OK.”
Youtz said he received no notification before the call but had heard about the situation on the radio. “You’d think they would have contacted us,” he said.
In Middletown, Mayor Robert G. Reid directed his complaints about lack of information to Metropolitan Edison Co., which runs the generating station.
“What bothers me is that from 7:30 to 11 a.m., we did not know anything,” Reid said. “We’re a little upset, and I am particularly, that not enough news comes from Met Ed itself to the borough.”
“If there had to be a mass evacuation, I’m sure Met Ed would have called,” Reid said, but “I think someone should have called and said there was no need to evacuate anyone.”
BOROUGH OFFICIALS said that the county notified them of an “on-site emergency” at the plant about 7:30 a.m. The borough received no further information until a Met Ed spokesman contacted the borough at 11 a.m., Reid said.
Reid said the spokesman told him there was “no detection of radioactive fallout in the air” and that there had been no injuries at the plant.
Later in the day, however, the Met Ed spokesman, located in Reading, called again to say that some radiation had leaked from the plant but that officials had not been made aware of the leak, Reid said.
Before the Met Ed call, “we didn’t have enough information in the borough that we could tell people that there was no danger,” Reid said.
“We’re in the dark,” Police Chief George M. Miller said. “We don’t know what the hell is going on up there.”
Ironically, Reid added, he has been attempting for two months to develop an emergency plan for the borough and surrounding areas. He said the plan has not been completed.
Middletown has several radiation detection devices and officials monitored radiation levels in the borough throughout the day, Reid said.