A federal agency investigating the link between veterans cancer and a leaking nuclear reactor found years of key records documenting exposure have been lost.
CLEVELAND - More veterans from across the country are now coming forward with fears that a leaking nuclear reactor caused their cancer following an exclusive 5 On Your Side investigation.
Joe Howe, of Hudson, was among 15,000 U.S. Navy personnel who served at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, in the 1960s and 70s. The base was powered by a nuclear power plant that was plagued by malfunctions.
Howe, who is now battling the effects of colon cancer, watched the exclusive 5 On Your Side investigation when it first revealed 123 reports of radiation exposure above allowable limits and a government report that found the drinking water was also contaminated.
"I felt like they pulled the wool over my eyes," Howe said, who like many veterans, were unaware of the radiation exposure threat until NewsChannel5 broke the story.
"So we actually drank the water, bathed in the water and the water was used for cooking our meals," Howe said.
But despite repeated cancer claims by veterans for years, the Department of Veterans Affairs denied service related claims and failed to alert veterans of possible radiation exposure.
"If they would have sent me a letter in 2004, telling me to get a colonoscopy, that would have averted this illness because they would have snipped off a polyp, instead of having to remove a tumor," Howe said.
Veteran John Howard. of Canton, does not have cancer, but agrees a full investigation is needed. Howard served as a Navy photographer, who once photographed the reactor's core for the Navy.
"We deserve to find out what we were exposed to," Howard said.
And near San Diego California, veteran Bill Vogel believes NewsChannel5's investigation is finally exposing what he believes has not been fully investigated.
Until now, only a 30-year-old Navy report reviewed the plant's operations.
"If you had this kind of accident today," Vogel said. "Do you believe the people who had the accident would permitted to do their own accident report?"
Meanwhile, Sen. Sherrod Brown has asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates for a full investigation.
Federal hearings prompted by an exclusive 5 On Your Side investigation into radiation exposure among McMurdo Navy veterans are scheduled to begin Tuesday morning.
A Navy veteran who helped trigger a federal probe into a leaking nuclear plant at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, has died of cancer just weeks before a government report on radiation exposure is due to be released.
Journalism judges around the country have honored Chief Investigator Ron Regan with the Peabody, Edward R. Murrow and regional Emmy awards in recent weeks, but something Regan received Thursday may be his most prized keepsake of all.