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Army Corps to detail cleanup of Parks NUMEC nuclear site

Mary Ann Thomas
| Monday, May 9, 2011

The Army Corps of Engineers will present details on Thursday on a long-awaited cleanup of the nuclear waste dump along Route 66 in Armstrong County.

A materials and processing building the size of a football field has been built on the 44-acre site in Parks for handling radiologically contaminated dirt and debris, which will be shipped to Clive, Utah.

In June, the corps and its contractor, Cabrera Services Inc., plan to begin excavation on two of 10 trenches dug in the 1960s for disposal of radioactive and chemical waste generated from the former Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corp. nuclear fuel plant in Apollo.

The Apollo plant and a plutonium plant next to the Parks Township waste dump were razed long ago. The waste dump, the last vestige of the nuclear operations, is owned by one of NUMEC's successors, BWX Technologies.

The $170 million cleanup is expected to take eight or 10 years as work crews remove an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 cubic yards of contaminated soils and debris.

"Safety is our first priority," said Bill Lenart, project manager for the Army Corps of Engineers, Pittsburgh District.

Recently, the corps and its contractor built a 150- by 400-foot materials and processing building, a one-eighth-mile road for truck access to Route 66, and a water treatment plant. A live gas line was rerouted from the waste dump this spring.

A public meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Parks fire hall will examine:

• Work completed on the site.

• Safety preparations.

• How the corps will excavate and handle the nuclear waste, monitor and test the site, and communicate with residents.

"We are afraid that this stuff going to leak out," said Mary Anne Walerski, who lives near the dump on Kiskimere Road.

"I want it to be over," she said. "Go ahead and do it. But why do our worries have to be stretched over this amount of time?"

Corps officials said safety issues are driving the duration of cleanup project. They plan to excavate the nuclear materials in small, one-foot lifts and closely monitor the excavation areas and entire site.

Township Supervisor Bud Shannon said he is happy with the corps work on the site so far.

"When it's done, there won't be a stigma anymore," he said. "It will be good for the county, without us being a part of the so-called 'nuclear legacy.'"

Additional Information:

Coming up

Who: Army Corps of Engineers, Pittsburgh District

What: Public meeting on the cleanup of the nuclear waste dump in Parks Township

When: 7 p.m., Thursday

Where: Parks Township Volunteer Fire Department Hall, 1119 Dalmatian Drive, Parks Township

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