Piketon continues to fight radioactive disposal site

By Nikki Blankenship - nblankenship@aimmediamidwest.com

Preparation continues for a radioactive waste disposal site in Piketon, a plan with growing opposition.

Preparation continues for a radioactive waste disposal site in Piketon, a plan with growing opposition.

PIKETON – The Department of Energy (DOE) confirmed at Monday night’s Piketon Village Council meeting that concerns expressed by Piketon Mayor Billy Spencer, members of Council, various other public officials and members of Citizens Against Radioactive Dump (CARD) are valid.

The DOE’s local site lead Joel Bradburne and Manager of the Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office for DOE Robert Edwards were both present at the meeting to answer questions from community members who expressed frustrations, claiming that the DOE has repeatedly lied to the them.

Over recent months, the Village of Piketon has urged the DOE to reconsider the on-site waste disposal facility that the department feels is a solution to the waste problem at the Piketon plant. Thus far, options have been to do nothing, ship waste off-site or create a place on-site to dump it.

During the meeting, DOE representatives explained that it is expected to cost an estimated $1 billion less to dispose of the waste on-site. The facility would be 100-acre dump that DOE representatives state would hold low-level contaminants from site cleanup.

Earlier this year, Piketon hired an third-party consultant to evaluate plans for the site. The conclusion brought about several concerns that Piketon officials addressed directly during Monday night’s meeting.

The first concern was that there are fragments in the bedrock which could allow for waste to contaminant underground water sources, proximity to Piketon residents and compliance with the Toxic Substances Control Act provision mandating that the bottom of a landfill line system be installed at least 50 feet from historic high-water tables.

According to the results of the study, data from DOE states the depth of groundwater in some areas of the landfill site is as shallow as 21 feet below the surface.

“We worry about our water,” Spencer stated during the meeting.

Spencer and other frustrated Piketon officials and residents demanded DOE address these concerns.

“We don’t ask scientific questions. Are there fractures in the bedrock?” Spencer stressed as he added that the DOE originally said there were no fractures and then changed their opinion to state there were no fractures within 20 feet.

When again asked if there are fractures below 20 feet, “The answer to that is yes,” Bradburne responded.

Regulatory requirements mandate that the facility would have to be 1,000 feet from any residents. DOE stated that the closest resident is just over 1,000 feet away. DOE representatives also answered that they did receive a waiver for cold water streams; however, they have no asked for any additional waivers because they believe they are otherwise in compliance with the Toxic Substances Control Act.

While Spencer stated that his concern is for the “safety of people that call Piketon home,” Barburne stated, “We (DOE) have no interest in doing anything that’s unsafe.”

Vina Colley with PRESS questioned if the groundwater is contaminated.

A report titled Groundwater Movement at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant prepared in 2002 by Beat Hintermann, Marilynn dela Merced and Marvin Resnikoff with Radioactive Waste Management Associates for the Portsmouth-Piketon Residents for Environmental Safety and Security (PRESS), another concerned citizens group, and the Uranium Enrichment Project it is stated that there are numerous underground waterways.

“There are two groundwater layers below the site; there is also a creek on-site that eventually flows to the Scioto River, serving as a discharge for liquid effluents produced by the plant,” the report states.

In addition to references of “plumes of contaminated groundwater” and other instances of on-site contamination, the report also states water contamination has been found off-site.

“In addition to contamination on-site, contaminants have been found off-site, though DOE continues to dispute this. The plume below the holding pond on the east side extends to Little Beaver Creek, which has to be considered off-site, since it flows out of the site boundary.”

The report outlines decades of elevated levels of radioactive chemical technetium (Tc) and toxin trichloroethylene (TCE).

“Tc has been repeatedly found in local residential monitoring wells, even though it is below the allowable limit. Also, as recently as 1992, sediments in Little Beaver Creek, Big Beaver Creek and Scioto River were found to have gross beta (radioactive particle) concentrations that were 5 times above background. In addition, elevated levels of gross beta were found in fish tissue from all three rivers.”

Council and CARD members also questioned what kinds of waste would be dumped/accepted at the facility and how groundwater and waste will be monitored after it has been dumped. Bradburne explained that types of waste would be more apparent as buildings head towards demolition and further stated that the site will not accept waste from other locations.

Councilman Dennis Foreman, who was one of several in attendance wearing a “No Radioactive Waste Dump” t-shirt, joined Spencer in urging the citizens demand answers fromand express opposition to the Ohio EPA.

The waste disposal facility (referenced as a radioactive dump by opponents) is expected to be ready to accept waste as early as late 2021.

Preparation continues for a radioactive waste disposal site in Piketon, a plan with growing opposition.
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2017/10/web1_waste-cells.jpgPreparation continues for a radioactive waste disposal site in Piketon, a plan with growing opposition.

By Nikki Blankenship


Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.