Niagara Gazette

December 4, 2012

Army Corps looking for leaking uranium at LOOW

by Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — It seems the Army Corps of Engineers is listening to some of the public's concerns about possible uranium contamination in areas directly surrounding the Interim Waste Containment Structure at the Niagara Falls Storage Site.

Environmental Engineer Jane Stanten gave a brief presentation to the Lake Ontario Ordnance Works Community Action Council Tuesday, detailing the corps's efforts to find out if any uranium could possibly be leaking from the federally owned, Town of Lewiston structure.

"We've been filling data gaps, plugging all of the pipelines leaving the site and addressing some of the concerns which have been raised by the community," she said about the corps's recent activity. "What we were trying to do was zero in on where we know we have some groundwater issues."

She said work began drilling several new monitoring wells and cutting and capping all pipelines from the site on Nov. 10.

There were some wells, already established as part of the environmental surveillance program, monitoring contamination around the site registering increased levels of the highly radioactive element. Unsure of how it became increased, the new wells will hopefully determine where the contamination is coming from so they can figure out the solution, she said.

And because the wells were drilled outside the existing testing parameters, results should be available to the public – after going through rigorous review for validity – sooner than the nearly two years it takes to process normal testing, Stanten said.

One of the major focal points of the additional testing was around a particular troubling spot, well 11b, located northeast of the storage site. The crew drilled four new wells in the immediately surrounding area, with three more dug out between it and the site.

CAC members seemed to believe the contamination wasn't coming from the site because of a drainage ditch running between the well and the site.

Co-chairman William Boeck said it is "unlikely" the IWCS is the perpetrator because "the ditch would most likely catch it."

He said the ditch is 15 feet deep, while the wells descend 20 feet. So the possibility exists, he added.

"This shows the Corps is making a determined effort to identify questions previous studies have raised and their interest in getting data to try to answer those questions," Boeck said. "They're doing loose ends."

Cutting off the pipeline access also eliminates another way contamination can spread off-site, if it is occurring, Boeck said.

"The evidence indicates it's not been much of a problem," he said. "But this prevents any possible problems in the future."