Woman Sues UC Board Of Regents Over Father's Death

Health Issues Allegedly Caused by Proximity to Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1950s

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An Illinois woman filed suit against the UC Board of Regents last week, alleging that negligent oversight of the Los Alamos National Laboratory led to the death of her father.

Rene Ryman claims that her father Lowell Ryman died in 2005 of multiple myeloma due to his exposure to plutonium and other radioactive wastes released by the lab more than fifty years ago. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, N.M., on April 8.

The lab was managed solely by the university until its contract ended in May 2006, when Los Alamos National Security, LLC, a security group that includes the university, took over as managers.

Lowell Ryman moved to Los Alamos County when he was nine years old and lived there from 1950 to 1953. According to Rene Ryman's attorney, Michael Howell, Lowell Ryman spent a lot of time playing in the canyons near the lab. Access to the canyons was unrestricted despite the pipelines that pumped waste directly from the lab into the canyons, Howell said.

According to the lawsuit, the "defendents knowingly, willfully and/or recklessly failed to control, contain, and/or immediately remove radioactive wastes emitted in the air, surface and surface water where Lowell Edward Ryman lived, played, and gathered."

UC spokesperson Chris Harrington said he could not comment on the suit.

Rene Ryman is now suing the UC Regents for $2 million to $5 million, alleging gross negligence, inherently dangerous activity and trespassing for dumping waste on public lands, among other complaints.

She is also suing the Zia Company, a subcontractor for the lab from 1946 to 1986.

"The Zia Company was the primary contractor there, so we believe that at the lab's discretion, they were disposing of the plutonium," Howell said.

Howell said that in the past, the lab has underreported its production and disposal of radioactive wastes by at least sixty-fold.

Harrington also could not comment on the accusations of underreporting but said the lab continuously monitors contamination at the site.

He added that the radioactivity levels in the soil and air in the areas surrounding the Los Alamos lab are in compliance with the U.S. Department of Energy's standard for public human health.

"Safety of employees and the community is a top priority for the laboratory and for the University of California and has been since the beginning of our management responsibilities at the lab," he said.


Contact Anna Widdowson at [email protected]

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