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Armstrong County nuclear waste removal on verge of start

| Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2011

The removal of nuclear waste at the former Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corp. waste dump in Armstrong County is being met with mixed emotions by neighbors.

"I'm deathly afraid," said Cindy Hill from inside her house in Parks, about 200 feet from the site. "It's already in there. They ought to just leave it alone."

What Hill wants left alone are 10 trenches under 44 acres where the company dumped radioactive and chemical waste that was produced at its Apollo plant in the 1960s.

The plant, which closed in 1970, produced nuclear fuel for submarines and power plants, as well as a range of nuclear products for the federal government and others.

The Army Corps of Engineers and its contractor, Cabrera Services Inc., began on Monday to train workers for the project.

Excavation at the site will cost between $150 million and $180 million and will begin this week, corps spokesman Dan Jones said.

The Army Corps of Engineers held two public information meetings about the project in May.

But Hill, who has lived in her home for 27 years, said she hoped she would be directly informed of the corps' plans.

"They have never told me anything," she said. "I'm basically sitting right on top of it, and I have no information."

Studies done by the corps have shown that the dump site has never leaked radioactive material, but those studies haven't done much to lessen residents' concerns.

"I think the damage is already done," Hill said.

Dan Pencak said he is worried about the dangers of moving the waste.

"Although I want it out of there, it still worries me that they're going to start digging around after all these years," he said, standing on his front porch about 500 yards from the site.

"You never know if something could spill out."

Pencak has lived in his house for 30 years and said he has never really worried about the waste site until now.

For Hill, her anxiety stems from a lack of trust.

"I know they're supposed to be careful," she said. "But so much has happened over the years, you don't know who to believe."

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