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Metal Service cleanup raises $1M

| Friday, Sept. 7, 2007

The campaign to clean up the former Metal Services Inc. property got a boost Thursday with a $50,000 federal grant.

U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Johnstown, who became involved in getting the property cleaned up, announced that the grant was awarded to the borough by the Appalachian Regional Commission.

That brings the total grant money secured for the project by borough, state and federal officials to $1 million.

"It certainly is good news," said John Ameno, Apollo Council president. "We were told we were probably going to get this, but we never had gotten anything in writing saying that we got it."

The money will be used to clean up 6.2 acres of the 14.2-acre site located between North Warren Avenue and the Kiski River.

The Metal Services land was contaminated by uranium dust from a neighboring nuclear fuels-processing plant operated by the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corp. (NUMEC), Atlantic Richfield (ARCO) and most recently Babcock & Wilcox.

The NUMEC plant was demolished and the land remediated in mid-1990s. The Metal Services facility was torn down, but the site has not been completely cleaned up.

"It's to finish the cleanup process on the site down there," Ameno said. "There is a lot of industrial rubble that is still down there -- you know, concrete and steel that has been pushed into a pile.

"There's also some lead in the soil there. It's just a thing of putting it in place and capping it over. They have pretty much determined that it hasn't migrated anywhere."

He said there is about 10,000 to 11,000 cubic yards of material to be moved off site.

Once that is done, borough officials are planning to use it to develop a light industrial park.

Ameno said the borough will do the best cleanup possible for the money.

His sister, Patty Ameno, an environmental activist, thinks that it may not be enough.

"They really need to do some core sampling of the old Pennsylvania Canal, which is under there," she said. "There needs to be some careful decisions here and a higher legal authority that is skilled in governmental and environmental property -- basically the (attorneys) of some of the environmental agencies like the Department of Energy and the EPA -- to look into getting more money."

Patty Ameno fears that the cleanup being planned may be cosmetic and not take care of all the problems, such as other hazardous wastes she suspects may have been buried at the site years ago.

"They (officials) cannot bury their heads in the sand and ignore what lies beneath," Patty Ameno said. "Look at it for what it is and try to get the funding to make it whole."

John Ameno said that bids on the cleanup work will probably be let by December or early January at the latest. He expects the work to start as soon as the contract is awarded.

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