Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Cleaning water beneath Fernald will take longer


Process may go on until 2020

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

CROSBY TWP. - Cleaning up the groundwater underneath the former Fernald uranium enrichment facility will take at least 10 years longer than expected, and perhaps more.

Bill Hertel, assistant project manager for Fluor Daniel, said the process of pulling contaminated groundwater out of the aquifer, treating it, and injecting it back into the ground could go on until 2020. Hertel made the comments Tuesday during an annual update on the state of the environment at the $4.4 billion cleanup on more than 1,000 acres.

There are two huge plumes of contamination in the groundwater under the facility, where the uranium measures between 500-800 parts per billion. It has to be cleaned to 30 parts per billion before the water is considered safe for drinking and the project is considered complete.

"Cleaning the aquifer is a lot like an ink stain in your shirt," Hertel said. "You have to wash it a bunch of times to get it out."

This ink stain is about 170 acres large.

The process is complicated. First the water is pulled out through a series of extraction wells. After the water is cleaned, it is pumped back into the ground, pushing more contaminated water toward the extraction wells.

Hertel said the plumes have shrunk very little, but the levels of uranium contamination within the plumes have gone down.

There is also concern that heavy rains could push the uranium content higher in the groundwater after project managers think they've finished.

That's why the state will check those levels five years after the project winds down.

U.S. Department of Energy officials are talking with the state to determine whether the groundwater has to be cleaned to a level higher than 30 ppb to compensate for rain.

But is water with 30 ppb of uranium safe to drink? "According to the Ohio EPA it is," Hertel said.

E-mail dklepal@enquirer.com




TOP STORIES
Cleaning water beneath Fernald will take longer
Norwood blight fight heats up
Elder removes priest's picture
Covington Diocese priest in child-sex case defrocked
College quiz 101: What's your major?

IN THE TRISTATE
Chesley aims to combine lawsuits
Spay/neuter program receives $20K grant
Here's chance to see old Woodward
Robber hits Carthage savings and loan, flees
Picture of the Day: Freedom Center Rising
Tristate A.M. Report

ENQUIRER COLUMNISTS
Bronson: Hannity shows the other side of the boycott story
Korte: City Hall
Howard: Some Good News

BUTLER, WARREN, CLERMONT
I-75 Liberty Twp. exit seems likely
Clermont seeks public advice on Metro bus routes
Butler trustees postpone rezoning for new complex
Computers in cruisers will aid Mason officers
UC adds presence in Warren
Decision on voting machines delayed

OBITUARIES
William G. Thornton, 89, built $10M firm
Lawrence Daily owned Swisher's department store

OHIO
U.S. House investigates 6th Circuit Appeals Court
Cleveland-to-Canada ferry service studied
Ohio Moments

KENTUCKY
Former city councilman convicted of solicitation
Major gets life term in '80 slaying
Festival of Speed includes ballpark
Grant Co. gets West Nile case
Kentucky obituaries