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Contract awarded for Parks Twp. nuclear dump cleanup

| Thursday, April 27, 2017, 2:24 p.m.
Eric Felack | Trib Total Media
A covered processing building at the rear of the Shallow Land Disposal Area property in Parks Township, as seen on Wednesday, April 8, 2015.
Eric Felack | Trib Total Media
The entrance to the Shallow Land Disposal Area in Parks, as seen on Wednesday, April 8, 2015.

Cleanup of the Parks Township nuclear waste dump could begin again in 2019.

The Army Corps of Engineers has awarded a $350 million contract to a Tennessee company to clean up the dump site, which contains various kinds of radioactive waste.

The Corps will update residents on the project and water test results on May 24 at Parks Township Volunteer Fire Department.

Jacobs Field Services North America Inc. of Oak Ridge, Tenn., was awarded the contract to remove radioactive waste from the dump, formally known as the Shallow Land Disposal Area.

The company is expected to begin excavation at the site in July 2019, according to the Corps.

The Corps shut down cleanup of the 44-acre site along Route 66 at Kiskimere Drive in 2011 after unearthing more “special nuclear material” than its contractor or cleanup plans were prepared to handle.

That drove up costs and triggered a yearlong review of the cleanup plan. Additionally, its contractor allegedly mishandled some of the waste, according to the Corps.

Because special nuclear material is potentially suitable for bomb-making, visibly armed federal Homeland Security personnel guarded the site during prior cleanup operations.

Jacobs Field Services is “eminently qualified, and they submitted the best proposal,” said Mike Helbling, Corps projects manager for the Parks Township site.

The company is headquartered in Oak Ridge, an area known for its nuclear laboratories and universities.

Helbling said he could not yet release how many contractors bid on the Parks cleanup because of federal contract requirements that still need to be completed.

Patty Ameno, environmental activist from Hyde Park who has been pushing for the cleanup for 20-plus years said: “This is the best of news, from my viewpoint. They have the staff and expertise to deal with material on that site.”

Bud Shannon, Parks Township supervisors chairman, was glad to hear that the cleanup is back on track with a new contractor.

“It sounds to me like they are going to do everything that they said they were going to do,” he said.

Some local residents will likely be hired for the estimated 10-year cleanup process, Helbling said.

Although he didn't know how many workers, Helbling said Jacobs would be hiring subcontractors and looking for highly skilled and other workers, as well as local vendors and material suppliers.

“We want opportunities for the remediation to be economically beneficial to the community,” he said.

But the main objective for the long project will continue to be safety, Helbling said.

Planning starts this summer.

Jacobs will produce 19 work plans detailing safety and security, waste excavation methods, material handling and disposal, he said.

The Corps and the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission will review the plans, Helbling said, and the Corps will seek revisions as necessary.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency will split water samples with the Corps from wells along the dump's boundaries for quality assurance. The EPA has been sampling groundwater outside cleanup operations to check for off-site contamination.

So far, the EPA has found no irregularities but will continue to monitor.

Other agencies working with the Corps include the Department of Energy, the National Nuclear Security Administration and others.

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. She can be reached at 724-226-4691 or mthomas@tribweb.com or via twitter @MaThomas_Trib

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