Feds say budget changes proposed by Trump won’t affect Parks Twp. waste dump cleanup | TribLIVE.com
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Mary Ann Thomas

A proposed change in the 2020 federal budget that would transfer management of a nuclear waste dump cleanup from the Army Corps of Engineers to the Department of Energy isn’t expected to have any effect on the Parks Township project.

Currently, the Corps is in charge of cleanup efforts at what’s formally known as the Shallow Land Disposal Area. The dumpsite was created by Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corp. (NUMEC) and later used by subsequent owners Atlantic Richfield and Babcock & Wilcox.

It’s a system of trenches used to dump nuclear and chemical wastes from a former uranium processing facility in Apollo and a former plutonium processing plant in Parks Township. The site was used mostly in the 1960s to dispose of radioactive waste materials and equipment.

That won’t change if the proposed switch in management is approved by Congress, according to Corps spokesman John Kelly.

Under the proposal, contained in President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP) would revert back to the Department of Energy.

The Corps would continue to perform cleanup of FUSRAP sites, but on a reimbursable basis with Department of Energy. This proposal would enable the department to consider a broader range of federal cleanup efforts in prioritizing work each year, thereby increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of federal cleanup efforts, according to the Corps.

But the move isn’t sitting well with environmental activist Patty Ameno of Hyde Park. Ameno, who grew up in Apollo near the uranium plant there, said any move to wrest control of the FUSRAP program from the Army Corps would be “met with a fight.”

Ameno has fought for decades to have the Parks Township site cleaned up and said federal legislation puts the site under the purview of the Corps.

“The cleanup of the site was federally enacted by law through the efforts of John P. Murtha,” Ameno said.

In 2001, then-U.S. Rep. Murtha pushed through legislation taking the Park Townships site out of the jurisdiction of the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and making it a FUSRAP site overseen by the Army Corps.

Ameno said she would oppose any move to take the Parks cleanup out of Corps’ control.

The Corps has been leading the cleanup efforts at the Parks waste dump for about 18 years.

The proposed change in fiscal responsibility is why Trump’s budget for the Corps contains no money for FUSRAP cleanups. Instead, that money is included in the Department of Energy’s budget.

The Parks cleanup, according to the Corps, is back on track after a stop order for the project was lifted last September. The $350 million cleanup again is in the planning stages after a new contractor to perform the work was hired. The first contractor for the project, hired more than 10 years ago, was let go after it was discovered the cleanup would be more difficult that originally thought.

The dump is scheduled to be readied for excavation and sorting of the nuclear materials in mid-2020 with digging expected to begin in 2021.

The project is expected to take about 10 years to complete.

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