Wednesday, November 14, 2001

Last tainted soil removed at Fernald

The Associated Press

        The government said Tuesday the last of 400,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil and debris has been removed from the Fernald plant, the former uranium processing plant in Crosby Township.

        The government is spending at least $3.7 billion to clean up and decontaminate the 1,050-acre site.

        The U.S. Department of Energy hopes to complete the cleanup by Dec. 31, 2006, barring major problems or action by Congress to reduce funding for the project.

        Energy Department officials said its cleanup contractor, Fluor Fernald Inc., had finished removing the contaminated dirt from a 26-acre plot of land. The tainted dirt had been contaminating underground water.

        The location is just south of where the government processed uranium for almost 40 years to be used at other federal sites in the production of nuclear weapons. Tons of contaminated construction debris, dirt and ash from boilers were dumped on the land between the early 1950s and the late 1980s. Uranium processing at the Fernald site was halted in 1989.

        Lisa Crawford, president of Fernald Residents for Environmental Safety and Health, which is monitoring the government's cleanup,said it eliminates the leaking of contaminated materials that had been located above the Great Miami River aquifer, a regional source of drinking water.

        Ms. Crawford was renting a house near the Fernald site when she learned in 1984 of radioactive contamination in a well that her family had been using.

        Before 1995, testing of the underground water revealed it had uranium concentrations as high as 2,000 parts per billion, compared to 1 to 3 parts per billion which are considered normal background levels.

        Energy Department officials said monitoring of the ground water now shows uranium contamination levels — before treating the water — at about 50 parts per billion.


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