by Terry Duffy
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District, held its long-awaited presentation Wednesday on the range of remedial long-range alternatives that could be considered for the Interim Waste Containment Structure at the Niagara Falls Storage Site in Lewiston.
Introducing the Corps "remedial alternatives" technical memorandum, nearly a year in the making, Doug Sarno, Corps technical facilitator/liaison for community outreach, opened by saying, "Hopefully, we'll give you a good understanding on the range of alternatives" on this site.
"This is an informational briefing about an informational document," added Bill Kowaleski, chief, Special Projects Branch for the Corps. "No decisions will be made tonight."
With that, and in a very cut-and-dried manner, Corps staffers and their consultants went on over the course of an hour to provide a very brief overview of the IWCS and possible alternatives. The actual presentation didn't provide for input from the limited number of attendees. A session featured small workshop exhibits afterward, which were again seen as solely informational.
Included in the presentation was a historical recap of past activity at the Lake Ontario Ordnance Works over seven decades; followed by discussions on the NFSS and IWCS, its 1980s construction and where it stands today.
What then followed was a range of potential options that could be considered for addressing wastes stored within the 10-acre radioactive waste IWCS. All stressed that the Corps was only presenting what it viewed as possible long-term options in this technical memo, and that any decisions on the site were very far from being finalized.
Project manager Samantha Pack of Science Applications International Corp. told visitors the "IWCS is operating as it was designed." She and SAIC senior engineer Dan Delp then went on to describe the current composition of IWCS and the placement of wastes stored within the cell. Wastes such as the very high level radioactive K-65s, which comprise 1 percent of the IWCS volume but 91 percent of the IWCS radioactivity, are stored deep within sectionalized areas inside bays in the southwest and south of the IWCS, while lesser radioactive residues such as R-10s and various debris, which comprise 99 percent of the IWCS volume and 9 percent of the radioactivity, are found on the outer portions of the cell.
The IWCS facility itself is comprised of an earthen structure containing a sectionalized reinforced concrete basement of partially demolished Building 411, formerly a water treatment plant; and ancillary storage Buildings 413 and 414, both demolished and all found in the southeast and southwest areas, which contain the K-65s. To the north is an area containing the lesser R-10 and other wastes.
Delp went on to discuss the final remedial alternatives the Corps is now considering for IWCS. No cost figures for any of the options were presented. They include:
•No action, which leaves the IWCS "as is" with no maintenance, no monitoring or land use controls. This alternative was stressed by both consultants as "not being an option for this site."
•Enhanced containment - which leaves the wastes stored within, but adds extra protections to the cap in the form of a 60-millimeter geo-membrane layer; a 6-inch sand drainage layer; an 18-inch "riprap" layer to prevent intrusions of roots or animals; 18 inches of surface soil described as common fill and 6 inches of topsoil followed by grass.
By comparison the existing clay cap features a 3-foot clay cap; 12 inches of surface soil and 6 inches of topsoil followed by grass.
The enhancements would increase clay thickness, provide for drainage layers and call for a reduction in the side slopes, according to Corps documents. As far as land use controls, federal ownership, surveillance, monitoring, maintenance and security would be maintained.
•Partial removal and disposal - which could see:
√Removal, treatment and disposal of Subunit A containing the high-activity K-65 residues. Procedures would involve the building of a radon control system at the site along with a treatment facility, and subunits B and C, which contain lower level R-10 residues, other debris and soils left intact with enhancement containment to the cap and land use controls as described above, or
√Removal, treatment and disposal of Subunit A and disposal of Subunit B, which contain the K-65s and R-10s respectively, and leaving Subunit C, again with the enhanced containment to the cap and land use controls.
•Complete removal, which would entail treatment and disposal of Subunit A, off-site disposal of subunits B and C and all excavations landfilled and the site restored.
In their summations, Corps officials informed that as part of its feasibility study, all of the remedial alternatives outlined above would be undergoing what it called a "detailed and comparable analysis." Included would be evaluations under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act; an examination on whether they meet and satisfy thresholds such as being protective to human health and the environment and complying with regulations; balancing such conditions as long-term effectiveness and permanence, short-term effectiveness, reduction in toxicity, mobility or high-volume treatment, being implementable and cost considerations; and meeting the conditions of state and community acceptance.
The Corps Feasibility Study is expected to be complete by 2014; a proposed plan by 2015, followed by a formal comment period and a record of decision.
Commenting afterward, Sarno said the session went as well as he hoped it would go. "I feel they got their message out (on the options) and I think it's understandable by the public."
As noted, no final decision as to the site's future is to be expected from the Corps for quite some time.