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IWCS, LOOW CAC, LOOW RAB all newsmakers this week

by jmaloni
Fri, Jan 20th 2012 09:15 pm

by Terry Duffy

News concerning the future of the Interim Waste Containment Structure on the Lake Ontario Ordnance Works property in northern Lewiston continues.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Buffalo District this week released technical reports covering radon issues and meteorological data for the 10-acre IWCS located within the government owned and restricted Niagara Falls Storage Site at LOOW.

Accessed online athttp://www.lrb.usace.army.mil/fusrap/nfss/index.htm#Documents, the two reports are the latest in the Corp's ongoing release of informational resources as it moves through the Feasibility Process on the IWCS to determine its future. These two reports will be the focus of a Wednesday, March 28, 6:30 p.m. Corps work session to be held at the Lewiston Senior Center on Lower River Road. It is open to area residents.

The week also saw two news items of interest to local residents: the holding of a Lake Ontario Ordnance Works Community Action Council session on Jan. 18 to plan for the upcoming Corps workshop topics on the radon and meteorological data. And release of the discussion item for the LOOW Restoration Advisory Board's session set for Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 6:15 p.m., in the Alumni Room of the Community Resource Center on the Lewiston-Porter Creek Road campus.

Moving first to the CAC January meeting. That session, held on the Lew-Port campus, saw attendance by Corps Buffalo District officials, a representative of U.S. Kristin Gillibrand's office, Lew-Port Superintendent of Schools Chris Roser and members of the Board of Education, plus local officials and residents. It featured insightful discussion on radon, also member discussion on how to best convey both Corps' technical memorandums to the public en route to the March workshop.

"The real conversation is what are the main issues we want to discuss for the community as we prepare for the March 28 workshop," said Doug Sarno, technical facilitator contracted earlier by the Corps to work with the community on the FS process. Sarno has been active in helping to coordinate the all-volunteer citizen CAC's endeavors of promoting transparency on the IWCS concerns to the community. "We want to engage in dialogue."

Those comments were shared by Dr. Joe Gardella, Larken professor of chemistry at the University of Buffalo who serves as co-chair of the CAC. "We need to delve into the details," when it comes to the radon issue.

John Busey, LOOW project manager for the Corps, concurred. "Radon is a significant concern at this site. We want to look at the issues, (and what's involved) if and when we raise the cap," said Busey.

Among those would be developing a thorough understanding of the IWCS radiological contents and the dangers to the public, the options to consider when it comes to remediation/clean-up of the cell and adequately detailing all alternatives to the public.

"The IWCS currently is pretty well contained," said Sarno. But "when you open the cap you have problems; you have the release of radon, radon gas. We need to understand the protections (for the community) of what the Corps has to do."

Those remarks opened to a lengthy discussion on radon, radon gas and its dangers, provided by Dr. William Boeck, retired physics professor from Niagara University who has been very active over the years on radiological studies, including past involvement at the U.S. government Los Alamos National Laboratory. "Radon damage over a long period of time can be attributed to exposure. We need familiarity," said Boeck as he began his presentation.

Likened to sitting in on a college level chemistry class, Boeck went on to provide attendees a literal smorgasbord of information on radon. Include was: what radon actually is; its dangers; the details of a half-life and radon's longevity in the environment; the radon decay process; the elements of the uranium 238 decay chain; radon's impact on the lungs and its link to lung cancer; radon exposures; indoor radon; how much radon is in the IWCS and expected scenarios to be evaluated in the Corps radon assessment of the site and removal options.

The CAC session that night went on to touch a host of options to be considered, particularly with radon and the K-65s at IWCS as Corps plans remediation future efforts. Issues such as: the strong community demand for complete remediation and cleanup/restoration of the IWCS and NFSS lands; the exorbitant costs involved; the potential health impacts to the community during remediation, the complex issues involved in remediation; the overall government economic picture and practical realities, and an actual realistic timeline were all brought up.

Roser perhaps summed up the thoughts of all when he commented, "The difficulty here is what you're going to have to go through to make it (IWCS) safe."

CAC members will be weighing the Corps reports and the aforementioned IWCS issues in detail at its upcoming sessions, set for Feb. 15 and March 15, both at 6:30 p.m. on the Lew-Port campus. For more, visit the CAC website at www.loowcac.org.

Meanwhile LOOW RAB reports its Wednesday session at Lew-Port it will be discussing what's involved should the "potential creation of a permanent federal radioactive waste disposal facility in Niagara County" ever become reality.

According to the RAB news release, issued Thursday, "The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is in the process of determining whether large amounts of high-activity radioactive waste will be removed, or partially removed, from the Town of Lewiston. There are several variations of these options being considered, including the creation of a permanent radioactive waste disposal facility. Although the Corps has not 'officially' selected an option, it has begun to create a public record that may permit or preclude certain options.

"Background: In the past, dangerous radioactive material was found in Town of Porter surface drainages which feed Lake Ontario. Material from atomic weapons production is being temporarily stored in a WWII-era basement, partially covered with clay. This 'containment structure' is on the Niagara Falls Storage Site (NFSS), located on Pletcher Rd., about one mile east of Lew-Port Central School District property, close to residences and agricultural property. The NFSS is also close to the Modern solid waste landfills, the CWM chemical waste landfills, and the Walleye Fish Hatchery.

"One of the lessons learned from a radioactive waste site in Fernald, Ohio, is that clean-up standards less than those required for Residential and Agricultural Future Land Use, are prerequisite to creating a permanent radioactive waste disposal facility. Fernald sent some radioactive material to regulated disposal facilities in dry climates. However, the federal government also created a permanent waste disposal facility at Fernald that contains an estimated 3 million tons of radioactive waste.

"Issue: A September 28, 2011 public input summary created by the Army Corps of Engineers and its facilitator discouraged Residential and Agricultural Future Land Uses for the NFSS, without informing the community of the ramifications. In response, the RAB created a public survey, which indicates most residents support restoring the NFSS to a condition suitable for Residential (or Agricultural) land use. Almost all residents who went to the RAB website to take the survey did not want a permanent radioactive waste disposal facility created at the NFSS in Lewiston. Residents may still participate in the simple 3-question survey at http://loowrab.com/.  

"The potential for a permanent radioactive waste disposal facility will be discussed at the next RAB meeting, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 6:15 p.m. at the Lew-Port Central School District Community Resource Center, Alumni Room. The public is welcome to attend."

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