Robert Weber, Mechanicsburg

Interviewed October and November, 1982

[The following is compiled from excerpts of interviews by Smith/ Katagiri on October 26, 1982,PUC oral testimony, and also from “The People of Three Mile Island” by Robert Del Tredici, Sierra Club Books, 1980.]

The evidence of trouble came out in sows and sheep and goats when the Three Mile Island thing came to a head. The period in which the following problems occurred was the birthing season of 1979, 1980 and into 1981. We were having stillbirths. Many. In sheep, goats and pigs. This problem spread over about fifteen miles. The fifteen-mile area included a circle north to North Mountain [to Wentzville Road], west almost to Carlisle, and south around to Dover. I just know about this side of the Susquehanna River. It spread as far as fifteen miles, where we would have one lamb be born alive and the other lamb would be stillborn. And the same way with goats, and four or five pigs would be born live, and the rest of the litter would be dead. There were many of them that were to term. We are still running into the problem of stillbirths in sheep and goats and pigs. [Oct. ‘82] However, I would say it’s decreased quite a lot beginning from about the later part of 1981. A certain amount of stillbirths do occur normally with weather changes and drought and all those conditions where they eat other weeds or something else. But the weather experienced during the times these animals were pregnant and gave birth wasn’t particularly adverse from what we had the two years before. However, we weren’t seeing too much of the stillborn up until the accident. The stillbirth rate increased at that time to at least 10% of all animals being born.

Right after the March 1979 accident at TMI, we had many sows that could not farrow all their pigs. We did, I don’t know how many, Cesarean sections on sows with stillborn pigs, say after about June of 1979. This problem with sows occurred during the two farrowing times, which was late spring of 1979 and to not such a great degree in the fall of 1979. Before 1979, I would have about one call for a Cesarean on a sow per year but during those times we had several a month, usually about two a week and that was just an abnormality for me because there aren’t that many sows in that area.

The problem of having to do increased C-sections in sows was not encountered in 1980. A different problem occurred that year. The sows were having their pigs, but many of the pigs were born dead. Now, I am not saying that all the sows delivered dead pigs. Not by a long shot. What I am saying is that there were too many that did.

Beginning with the kidding and lambing season of January 1980, we got into a new problem in the sheep and the goats. We were getting sheep and goats which should be ready to deliver their young, but they weren’t opening up. They did not dilate. I did about two Cesareans on goats and sheep per week from January 1980 and we ordinarily would only do one or two per year. All the hormones that we used in the past to dilate an animal didn’t work. I mean I would give them massive doses, and I left the syringe and the bottle there and let them continue with the injections. Finally, in frustration, I’d say, “Don’t wait until the sheep’s dead or the Iamb’s dead. Bring it in, operate.”

One of the farms down there, during the spring of 1980, did not have a cow that had a calf natural. He had beef cows and none of those cows had a calf natural. They never got ready to have a calf. In other words, she made no line of milk and she didn’t spring up anywhere. It was like she was just going to carry it forever. And so I would start them on hormones, and most of those cows had to be on hormones for quite a while.

Immediately after the accident at TMI, we had many sheep and goats that couldn’t get up. Also, we had troubles with sheep just being found dead. Goats just being found dead. That was from immediately after the accident at TMI through that summer of 1979. They’d be adults. Right after the accident, about half a dozen animals or so that were just found dead were taken by the owners to the Department of Agriculture’s state laboratory to be checked for radiation, etc. When we looked for a report on these animals, we never got a report. I went over to the lab, and they said if it were ever submitted, that they would have it on file. They could not find records of any of those animals in their files. They claimed they never got the animals. I don’t believe this.

Cancer is our big deal now. It is currently our biggest problem and is on the increase. [Oct. ‘82] We have goats coming down with cancer, we have dogs with cancer, we have mules with cancer, and previous to that time I never saw it. Now they tell me that cancer is common in mules, and they tell me that cancer is common in goats, but prior to the accident I never saw a cancer in a goat. I never saw a cancer in a mule. But since that time, I’ve had cancers in goats, cancers in mules, cancers in ponies. We had many, many cows with cancer. We are finding the cancers in the uterus, the mammary systems, the lymphatics. Now these people aren’t going to want to talk about those cases.

We’ve had a lot of cancers in dogs lately. We have cancers of the spleen particularly. Cancers of the prostrate gland. And Hodgkin’s disease. We’ve had several of those. We’ve got it all in the files some place. These people, when they give up their dog with cancer, they’re very upset. Once, we had two in the same damn day.

Well, I think this — the animal kingdom, their life span is shorter than ours. Now we’re seeing an increase of cancers in animals, so what about the people ten years down the road? I just don’t have any proof that the accident at Three Mile Island has anything to do with our problem, but, I see this curve. We’re going up in the cancer problem. The hormone problem has more or less slowed down. [Oct. ‘82]