Army Corps of Engineers: $500 million Parks Township nuclear waste removal project is a ‘go’
The Army Corps of Engineers released test results and announced to residents Wednesday it is ready to resume the $500 million cleanup of the nuclear waste dump in Parks Township.
The 44-acre dump, officially known as the Shallow Land Disposal Area, is off Route 66 near Kiskimere Street. It was owned in the 1960s by the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corp. (NUMEC) which had plants in Apollo and Parks Township that produced nuclear fuels for Navy submarines, power plants and other government programs.
About 80 people attended the public meeting Wednesday at the Parks Township volunteer fire hall.
It featured a review of the project, which stalled seven years ago amid environmental test results.
The recent slowdown was an almost 18-month delay over a contract bid protest from the four bidders that didn’t win the $350 million contract to excavate the nuclear waste dump.
But the Army Corps reviewed the bids and recently lifted a stop-order on the federal contract that had been awarded to Jacobs Field Services to clean up the nuclear waste dump.
“We own this project,” said Col. Andrew “Coby” Short, commander of the Corps’ Pittsburgh District. “We have a contract. We have the money.
”We’re ready to go.”
Jacobs will develop a work plan through 2019, build cleanup facilities at the dump in 2020, then start excavating in 2021, said Brian Molloy, Corps project manager.
Digging, separating and shipping the contaminants from 10 trenches could take 10 years.
Environmental activist Patty Ameno of Hyde Park asked if the Corps would consider installing a temporary containment shelter around the dig site to “minimize fugitive dust and keep up security.”
Molloy said that’s an issue the contractor would address in the work plans.
Resident Bob Szitas, formerly of Parks Township but now an Allegheny Township resident, asked Corps officials how they could guarantee continuity of staff expertise given the project’s 10-year duration.
“I’m new,” Molloy said. “It’s a challenge and it’s a complex project, but we have a process.”
Szitas said he was satisfied with the Corps’ formal procedures to pass down information, but was concerned if that will be the case with contractors.
The Corps continues to monitor the groundwater annually at the site. Officials said it found once again that the levels of radioactive contaminants in the groundwater are below the federal and state drinking water quality standards. Resident who live near the dump have access to public water.
The Corps’ recent sampling found that the radiological contamination is not migrating offsite.
However, the recent groundwater tests show that beryllium, a metal used by the nuclear plants and buried on site found its way into the underground coal mines, which lie beneath the site.
The catacomb of mines has been a longtime concern as a pathway for the dump site’s contamination.
Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary Ann at 724-226-4691, [email protected] or via Twitter @MaThomas_Trib.