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Authority abandons plan to bury ash in landfill

| Thursday, Nov. 17, 2005

The Kiski Valley Water Pollution Control Authority is considering new options for disposing of uranium-contaminated ash from an former treatment lagoon, including asking the federal government to dispose of it along with waste from another nuclear contaminated site.

Authority Director Bob Kossak said Wednesday that he has abandoned plans to dispose of the 12,000 cubic meters of contaminated ash in a municipal landfill after residents near the East Huntingdon site slated to take the ash vowed to block the move.

Greenridge Landfill and two others subsequently withdrew their bids to accept the waste. The state Department of Environmental Protection, which issued a permit for the authority to move the ash, has said the authority could ask for new bids and choose another destination for the ash, but Kossak said he won't do that.

"I don't think it would be worth the trouble," Kossak said.

Instead, Kossak has asked state and federal elected representatives, including U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Johnstown, to help come up with money to pay for an alternative to dumping the ash in a landfill.

"We could afford the option rejected by the concerned citizens of the area," Kossak said. "That's all we could afford."

The landfill disposal plan was expected to cost about $900,000, Kossak said in his letter to officials. Of that, $800,000 was to come from a loan and $100,000 was to come from the authority's surplus fund.

Kossak has suggested two alternative disposal plans, both of which are sure to cost much more.

The first suggestion would be to cap the contaminated ash where it is in the former treatment lagoon along the banks of the Kiski River. Along with being expensive, this plan would prevent future expansion of the authority's facilities there, Kossak said.

The second option would be to include the treatment plant lagoon in the Army Corps of Engineers cleanup of a nuclear wate dump in Parks. That site contains radioactive waste from the same Parks and Apollo nuclear processing plants that contaminated the wastewater treatment plant lagoon.

That site along Route 66 contains 10 buried trenches cut into the hillside above what once was the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corp.'s plutonium-processing plant in the Kiskimere section of the township. Much, if not all, of the radiological and chemical contamination occurred during the 1960s.

The corps is scheduled to begin cleaning up that site next year, taking the contents to a low-level nuclear waste facility.

"I think for the Valley, the best option would be to include it in the (Parks dumpsite) closure," Kossak said.

Local activist Patty Ameno, who helped East Huntingdon residents coordinate their campaign to stop the initial plan, also believes the lagoon ash should be disposed with the Parks dumpsite waste.

"It's like a set of luggage," she said. "You don't want to break up the set. Send all the pieces together."

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