Friday, February 01, 2002

DOE chief touts new plan

Fernald cleanup completion now targeted for 2006

By Randy McNutt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        CROSBY TOWNSHIP — A new federal environmental plan would streamline cleanup operations at Fernald and similar hazardous-waste sites and finish the work faster, U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham told about 250 employees here Thursday.

[photo] Spencer Abraham, Department of Energy secretary, talks with Susan Brechbill, manager of the DOE's Ohio field office, Thursday during a tour of the Fernald site.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
        He visited the former uranium-processing plant to announce the Department of Energy's accelerated cleanup plan for such sites across the country.

        “Just as a go-slow approach would not be good for your family, the old environmental cleanup plan is not good for our communities,” he said. “And the old plan is not good for the environment, either.”

        Mr. Spencer said his plan emphasizes three goals:

        • Eliminate significant health and safety risks as soon as possible.

        • Review remaining risks on a case-by-case basis, working with local officials.

        • Streamline efforts so that money can be spent to accomplish a real cleanup, instead of spent on security and routine maintenance over many years.

        The plan sounds good, said community activist Lisa Crawford, but, she added, “Show me the money.”

        Ms. Crawford, leader of Fernald Residents for Environmental Safety and Health (FRESH), said, “Long-term stewardship is a concern. ... Our goal is to watch this and make sure we have a good cleanup. It's really frustrating for community folks to understand the budget process.”

        Mr. Abraham said the plan will work.

        “Years ago, skeptics predicted that the cleanup of the department's Rocky Flats site (in Colorado) would take 65 years and cost more than $36 billion,” he said. “Through innovative reforms, like those embraced in our plan, the Rocky Flats site will be cleaned up and closed 55 years ahead of schedule in 2006 for about $7 billion.”

        To accomplish his goals, he plans a fiscal-year 2003 budget request of $6.7 billion for waste sites across the country. The budget has two categories:

        • One for basic funding at every site.

        • One for an additional $800 million expedited cleanup account.

        If individual sites agree to participate, he said, they would receive additional money for a “fast-track cleanup.”

        Fernald spokesman Jeff Wagner said the site needs about $324 million a year if it is to be cleaned by 2006, the latest target date.

        The government spent $295 million for work here in 2001. Overall it expects to spend at least $3.7 billion to clean up and decontaminate the 1,050-acre site.

        Cleanup began in 1991. The cleanup company, Fluor Fernald, was originally required to finish the job by the end of 2010, but work has progressed better than originally expected.

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