The Columbus Dispatch
Plan to clean up ditch heading to Ohio EPA

Friday, August 13, 1999

By Bob Dreitzler
Dispatch Staff Reporter

PIKETON, Ohio -- A proposal to clean up an area at the uranium enrichment plant where traces of plutonium were detected is nearly ready to be submitted to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Evidence of the highly radioactive material was found in the early 1990s along a drainage ditch on the east side of the 3,714-acre Piketon compound 70 miles south of Columbus.

Testing in the ditch area detected plutonium, neptunium and americium in the soil, but not in the water, according to Department of Energy records.

A survey last year indicated that the contamination is not a -- threat to on-site workers or the off- site environment.

The survey recommended continued restricted access to the area. It also said no temporary clean-up measures should be attempted until a study of recommended corrective measures is completed.

The Department of Energy is expected to present documents outlining proposed corrective measures to the Ohio EPA in mid-September.

The review process will take several months. It will include provisions for public review and comment and a public hearing.

If the proposal is approved, Bechtel Jacobs, which manages cleanup projects at the plant, will hire subcontractors to cleanse the contaminated area.

The ditch starts in an area that once had two holding ponds that have been cleaned up and eliminated.

The ditch runs into Little Beaver Creek, which drains about half the plant site. Little Beaver Creek flows north to Big Beaver Creek, which drains into the Scioto River.

Before water from the ditch enters the creek, it passes through a holding pond that is part of a system for treating underground water that has been contaminated with industrial chemicals, including trichlorethylene.

The water passes through a carbon-filtration system and is monitored both for volatile organic compounds and radiation.

The ditch contamination was mentioned a year ago during a public meeting held in Waverly, Ohio, to discuss modifications to a hazardous waste storage permit issued under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

The possibility that plutonium or other highly radioactive materials were at the Piketon plant also came up during a 1993 public meeting in Piketon.