Editor's note: This article was updated after the Sentinel went to print on Friday.
by Terry Duffy
The Buffalo District of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced it will hold a workshop next week to discuss its recently released Remedial Investigation Report Addendum on the Interim Waste Containment Structure at the Niagara Falls Storage Site.
The session to be held Wednesday, June 8, at the Lewiston Senior Center, 4361 Lower River Road, at 6 p.m., is expected to detail updated Corps findings/analysis on IWCS for public review en route to the Corps pursuing a planned NFSS IWCS Operable Unit Feasibility Study. The session will also introduce Douglas Sarno, retained under a $275,000 Corps contract to serve as a technical facilitator on the NFSS IWCS project. Under terms of the contract, Sarno will act as a liaison between the Corps and Lewiston-Porter area community on technical issues concerning IWCS and the feasibility study.
"We want to promote openness and transparency and ensure that we provide the community with many opportunities for public participation," said Lt. Col. Stephen H. Bales, commander of the Buffalo District.
Those attending the session are expected to be updated with the latest Corps analysis on the current state and anticipated future of IWCS, the results of investigations completed over the past three years since the Corps Remedial Investigation report in December 2007, according to Corps Outreach Program Specialist Arleen K. Kreusch. "The addendum addresses potential data gaps and stakeholder concerns" following the earlier community sessions, says Kreusch.
On very brief review, the Corp's just completed analysis on IWCS performance and integrity could likely pose more questions/concerns from the community than it answers. Among the "main findings from the Corps research and investigations performed" at IWCS for the addendum, according to a "News from the Corps" email:
•The IWCS is performing as designed.
•Groundwater contamination is not migrating laterally.
•Plutonium is not a significant or widespread NFSS contaminant.
All three findings appear to fly directly opposite those of arguments and analysis presented at past Corps sessions by the Lake Ordnance Works Restoration Advisory Board, a citizens group comprised of industry and educational experts from throughout the area on the IWCS.
Among the RAB arguments, which at past Corps sessions appeared valid in the eyes of the Corps was that:
•The IWCS, completed in 1987, had only a 25-year expected life up to 2012;
•That due to incomplete findings in past reports on the IWCS construction, there remained uncertainty and suspicions as to the integrity of the IWCS side walls and bottom; and,
•That questions remained with respect to groundwater migrating and overall containment of wastes, including plutonium, uranium and other radioactive contaminants, both within IWCS and its adjoining areas on the southeast and northwest.
On the Corps "Missions" page on NFSS, under IWCS, "Project Status," accessed at www.lrb.usace.army.mil/fusrap/nfss/index.htm#documents finds the following Corps analysis:
"Transport simulations of groundwater indicate that the Interim Waste Containment Structure will adequately mitigate containment migration for nearly 200 years, as long as the site maintenance program is continued ...
"To date it is clear that the IWCS is performing as designed. ..."
On a separate six-page PDF, accessed via the above website, the Corps discusses work completed and areas studied at IWCS in its "Key Topics of the RIR Addendum," which led to its findings:
•Installation of new wells and refinement of the nature and extent of select radiological and/or chemical groundwater plumes in the upper-water bearing zone in the northwest corner of the site (Baker-Smith Area), north-central portion of the site (Acidification Area), and vicinity of the IWCS;
•Assessment of IWCS integrity;
•Re-assessment of the NFSS background groundwater data set;
•Comparison of NFSS soil background levels to U.S. and New York state area soil background levels;
•Review of environmental data for former Building 401 floor core and underlying soil samples, railroad ballast samples, and core samples of road pavement from across the site;
•Review of on-site Environmental Surveillance Program (ESP) data for groundwater, surface water and sediments;
•Review of radiological data for underground utility lines on the former Lake Ontario Ordnance Works property; and
•Investigation findings for plutonium in soil.
Among the findings:
"An assessment of pertinent information concluded that the IWCS is currently functioning as designed. This conclusion is supported by a review of: Ground surface elevation survey information for the IWCS cap; IWCS cap maintenance procedures; ESP data; and historical aerial photos."
Other conclusions came from groundwater conditions in the vicinity of the IWCS, and the trending of uranium and radium concentrations in groundwater monitoring wells sampled for the ESP, according to the Corps report. "Historical documents and as-built construction drawings indicate that subsurface piping within the planned confines of the IWCS were excavated from building perimeters inside the IWCS to an area immediately outside the planned cutoff wall. Pipelines within the IWCS were either completely removed or filled and the ends plugged to eliminate possible pathways for the migration of radio nuclides and to prevent future subsidence of compacted wastes," the findings revealed.
This and additional Corps IWCS performance analysis is expected to be addressed in detail at the Wednesday session by Sarno.
When reached for comment LOOW-RAB spokesman Joseph A. Gardella Jr., Larkin chair of chemistry, University at Buffalo, stated, "Members of the LOOW RAB remain concerned about the evidence of potential leakage from the NFSS, and look forward to reviewing the additional data and interpretations. We also welcome the appointment of a facilitator, Douglas Sarno, who will help with the dialogue about technical data and needs of the public. We thank the Corp for committing the resources to continue the technical dialogue for the public."