Officials with Westinghouse Electric Co. are recommending the removal of about 1,100 cubic yards of soil contaminated with uranium from the grounds of the company's shuttered nuclear fuel plant in Hematite.
Oct. 28Officials with Westinghouse Electric Co. are recommending the removal of about 1,100 cubic yards of soil contaminated with uranium from the grounds of the company's shuttered nuclear fuel plant in Hematite.
Kevin Hayes, an environmental manager for Westinghouse, says removal of the mound known as Deul's Mountain will enable engineering crews to begin studying the contents of waste burial pits on the site.
"It's just another interference that's out of the way, so we can better understand and deal with those pits," Hayes said. "Understanding is a good thing."
Westinghouse acquired the Hematite plant in 2000 and closed it in 2001 to consolidate operations in South Carolina.
The company has been working with state and federal regulators to develop a plan to clean up and decommission the facility.
Mallinckrodt Chemical Co. opened the plant in 1956 and used it to fill military contracts.
The plant later was used to manufacture nuclear-fuel-rod assemblies for commercial power plants.
Hayes says that identifying the contents of the burial pits is considered key to the cleanup effort.
Tests in 2002 near the plant on Highway P turned up eight wells contaminated with the chemicals trichloroethylene and tetrachloro- ethylene. The chemicals were used as cleaning agents at the plant in the 1950s and 1960s and have been linked to cancer and other health problems. Officials with Westinghouse believe that the chemicals might have come from one of 39 documented, unlined waste burial pits on the site, or from one of two unlined evaporation ponds behind the plant.
Both practices were common in the early years of the plant's operation. Westinghouse paid to cap private wells and connect nearby residents to public water service, to try to contain the contamination.
Meanwhile, officials need to know what is buried on-site. If state and federal regulators approve the removal of the mound, Hayes said, the contaminated soil would be packaged and moved off-site for disposal. But Clarissa Eaton, whose family's well also was among those found to be contaminated, said she was worried that the contaminated soil could become airborne during the removal process and blow toward her house. "They ran wild and hard and fast in our community for the last 50 years, and we're paying the price," Eaton said.
A copy of the Westinghouse proposal is available for review at the Festus Public Library.
Hayes says Westinghouse will accept public comments on the plan until 5 p.m.
Nov. 24 at 3300 State Road P, Festus, Mo.
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