O'Leary: Fernald's problems being fixed

Enquirer Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary hedged Wednesday when asked about reports of mismanagement in the cleanup of the Fernald plant.

At first Ms. O'Leary said many of the problems uncovered in an Enquirer investigation this month were ''old'' and already have been subject to ''corrective actions.''

When pressed, however, Ms. O'Leary backtracked, saying, ''It's very difficult to say everything has been taken care of. . . . However, I am clear that we have corrective actions in place.''

Ms. O'Leary also said she welcomed a probe by the General Accounting Office (GAO). The investigation was requested by Rep. Rob Portman, R-Cincinnati, after the Enquirer series.

Wednesday was the first time Ms. O'Leary publicly addressed The Enquirer's charges. The stories reported that the contractor hired to clean up Fernald, Fluor Daniel Corp., and its subsidiary, Fernald Environmental Restoration Management Co. (FERMCO), have cheated the government out of millions and jeopardized the safety of workers and neighbors.

Last week the GAO said it was expanding its investigation nationwide to probe how the Energy Department oversees all contractors.

Published Feb. 29, 1996.