by Terry Duffy
Members of the Lake Ontario Ordnance Works Community Action Council met Monday to discuss the ongoing technical report phases that the Army Corps of Engineers is pursuing toward a possible remediation of the Interim Waste Containment Structure at LOOW, and to review the recent CAC visit to the Niagara Falls Storage Site and plan for meetings with federal elected officials to discuss the potential of government funding for future IWCS cleanup/remediation efforts.
Leading off discussion was an update on the Corps' ARAR process - otherwise known as Applicable or Relevant and Appropriate Requirements - a complex set of legal standards for cleanup that the Corps would be considering in its overall IWCS remediation plans, and its ramifications. "It's a dense topic," commented LOOW CAC co-chair Dr. Joe Gardella, John and Frances Larkin professor of chemistry at the University at Buffalo. "It's potentially the most confusing and challenging (area) to get across to the community."
Monday's CAC session was part of a planning effort to help the Corps better explain this process to area residents once it's released this fall.
Gardella said the Corps continues to work with its attorneys in Washington in development of the ARAR standards, but that due to its very complex nature, the timeframe could be November or later when the technical documents would be finalized and released to the community. Corps officials had earlier projected release of the ARARs documents this summer and fall.
Once released, what would then follow would be a Corps workshop geared at educating the community on the various legal standards the Corps would be employing in any IWCS cleanup/remediation efforts.
CAC Technical Facilitator Doug Sarno commented the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has an interest in how the ARARs standards are being considered, developed and employed, but that the Corps and its attorneys have the final say-so in the actual creation of the document and its carrying out in remediation. "There could be questions (among the agencies) over application of the laws," he said. "It appears (at times) the Corps lawyers are on opposite pages to that of the EPA; EPA's role is advisory, the Corps is applicable."
Still, both envisioned the two agencies would ultimately work constructively toward ARAR development and the final product would be one that's more understandable to the community. The Corps-EPA dialogue on ARARs would hopefully give the community "a better perspective on positions," (the standards) said Gardella. "It's good for the community; it will help to better understand things."
Discussion turned briefly to the NFSS visit this past summer by CAC members and area elected officials. Gardella and Sarno, who organized the visit with the Corps, called it a positive experience overall for all who attended and said it provided a better perspective on the Corps' current endeavors at IWCS and what it is attempting to accomplish at the site in the future.
That led to the next area of interest - funding elements for any hoped-for remediation/cleanup at NFSS down the road. Both Gardella and Sarno said the outcome of the November elections will definitely influence the possibility of any future work at the site. They noted IWCS falls under the Corps' Formerly Utilized Sites Remediation Action Program for investigative studies to determine what's needed, but not for any actual cleanup work. "The Corps future remedial investigation could end up with recommendations, plans made, but no money to carry out the job," said Gardella.
Both said the IWCS complete cleanup/remediation option - if that plan is ultimately chosen by the Corps (it has not yet been decided) - would require specialized Congressional funding for it to be carried out. Corps' estimates in the past have placed such a cleanup project at IWCS in the $1.3 to $1.5 billion range - far beyond annual Department of Defense annual budget appropriations and such an effort would require an act of Congress for funding.
Both again stressed the elections and who will be elected president, together with the nation's overall economic picture, would greatly determine the IWCS future. That could range from continued Corps' maintenance of the cell and not much else, to a complete cleanup/remediation en route to site closure and eventual transfer back to the Department of Energy, which ultimately owns/controls LOOW/NFSS.
Gardella suggested that CAC members begin to touch base with all federal officials, possibly even those potentially electable candidates this fall, in an attempt to enlighten all on the IWCS problem and the need for the expected massive amount of federal funding required to enable cleanup. "The magnitude of this project requires support of the entire Western New York Congressional delegation to get it addressed," he said.
CAC has set its next session to discuss the matter further for Monday, Oct. 22, at 6:30 p.m. at the Lewiston-Porter Community Resource Center alumni room. The session is open to the public.