Piketon asks DOE for comment extension

By Frank Lewis - flewis@civitasmedia.com

Piketon Mayor Billy Spencer says he can’t get a commitment from the Department of Energy that they will completely decontaminate the Piketon site so that the land can be used in the future for reindustrialization, so he is asking for a 60-day extension from DOE on the comment period for the draft environmental assessment: Conveyance of Real property at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

DOE has invited public comments on the draft environmental assessment (EA) for a 45-day period from Jan. 4 to Feb. 18, 2017. Federal law requires a comment period of 14 to 30 days and local DOE chose to extend the comment period. DOE has made the EA available in hard copy and online. Comments were also taken during a Site Project Update meeting open to the public Jan. 24 at Piketon High School.

“We actually started this process last June (2016) with a resolution, and to this day we still haven’t heard a response,” Spencer said. “Here’s what we’re asking for. If there’s a chance to have this site cleaned up for industrialized use, that they clean up the existing landfills on the site, that you dig up and clean the underground plumes that are contaminated and, if you don’t do that, we don’t believe for a second that any company or anybody is going to come in here and reuse this land that is contaminated with a landfill that is already there.”

Spencer said the best of the existing sites that were to be utilized is the site where the DOE chose to locate an on-site disposal cell – “and that’s gone too,” Spencer said. “We can’t get a firm commitment from them that they will actually clean this place up.”

According to Jeff Wagner of Fluor BWXT, in compliance with federal law, the U.S. Department of Energy is preparing for the release of land for future use from the Portsmouth Site in Piketon. Land suitable for economic development could be transferred to other entities for various uses. As part of making that land available, the DOE has prepared a Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) to summarize potential environmental consequences associated with such a transfer of land and obtain public input on the decision.

Wagner said, in the draft EA, DOE is assessing the environmental impacts of transfer of property for a range of uses such as industrial/commercial use, or mixed-use such as industrial, business park, conservation and forestry/wildlife management. DOE wants the public’s thoughts on the assessment. DOE solicits input to augment the analysis, then considers all of that in the final determination on whether such a transfer will have a significant impact on the environment.

“They want to call it some kind of industrial park, we have industrial parks here in Pike County now that they’ve spent millions of dollars on and there’s no on even there,” Spencer said. “Everybody’s going to be gone when they get this place torn down and what have we got? We’ve got a nuclear dump and we don’t want that. Our legacy now is that we’re home to a nuclear dump.”

Wagner said PORTS property transfers will each undergo environmental due diligence reviews on a parcel-by-parcel basis and each transfer would have to be found to be protective of human health and the environment in order to be determined to be suitable for transfer.

“We think DOE could use this land to keep jobs here that are going to be gone when this place is completely down and everybody just moves away,” Spencer said. “The DOE could use the land for a new mission on the site. They could do stuff like clean coal technology, gas generating plants. Put a small reactor there. The place is already contaminated, but it gives us some jobs up here.”

Availability of the draft EA for the public comment period was announced through paid advertising in area newspapers in Pike, Scioto, Jackson and Ross counties. More than 500 post cards were issued to a mailing list of people who have expressed interest in being provided updates about site activities. Copies of the draft EA were mailed to government officials in the four counties.

“We’ve always supported the site, but they’re just planning on walking away,” Spencer said. “There’s not going to be anybody on site. There’s going to be a small rag-tag group of people when they close it down and after they get this disposal cell built. Then, what’s our property values worth? What’s our grandkids going to do? They’re going to have to move away to make a living wage.”

Spencer said in the 80s of billions of dollars were spent on the centrifuge plant, and that plant was shut down. They started back up again and spent another billion, and now it is being shut down again.

“We just want the DOE to be aware that we’re here,” Spencer said. “If we write them a letter as elected officials, I think they owe us an answer.”

The draft EA is available at the DOE Environmental Information Center, 1862 Shyville Road, Room 207, Piketon, OH and is available electronically at http://energy.gov/nepa/nepa-documents/environmental-assessments-EA.

Comments can be mailed in writing to: Environmental Assessment Comments, US Dept. of Energy, PO Box 700, Piketon, OH 45661 or emailed to eacomments@fbports.com. Comments can also be directed toll-free to 1-888-603-7722.

By Frank Lewis


Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.