The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Wednesday, July 19, 2000
Paducah, Kentucky

DOE presents cleanup options
Plant cleanup will be costly in either time or money from 0 money and 7,000 years or $900 million and 15 years.

By Jennifer Sacharnoski
Seaborg
Seaborg


The U.S. Department of Energy released eight options for the cleanup of groundwater contamination at and near the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, ranging in price from $68 million to $917.8 million and in completion times from 15 to 7,000 years.

A presentation of the options followed by a question-and-answer session took place Tuesday night at the Paducah Information Age Park Resource Center.

The first option, "no action," which must be included in the study, would cost nothing and take about 7,000 years to rid the groundwater of all the identified contaminants. The option is used to provide a basis for comparison with other options and is rated a "high residual risk."

The costliest plan would have the contamination reduced at the source and treated in the surrounding areas in about 15 years. No other options estimate a completion time of less than 1,000 years, and only one other option suggests a timetable to clean off-site groundwater in less than 100 years.

"No one wants to spend $900 million, but no one wants to take 2,000 years to complete the cleanup either," DOE site director Don Seaborg said. "We want to find some solution between $100 million and $900 million."

The Feasibility Study for the Groundwater Operable Unit at the plant was prepared to evaluate possible alternatives to the contamination cleanup. The work was performed by Bechtel Jacobs Co. to summarize areas of contamination both off-site and on-site, and to provide the remedial options in detail.

This study is the first step toward eventual cleanup. The next step includes a 90-day feedback period in which the DOE is looking for public comment on the options. Implementation of any decision on any option or combination of options is not expected until the end of next year.

"We are looking to get a sense of what they (members of the public) want us to focus on," said Greg Cook, spokesman for Bechtel Jacobs.

After public comment, the Environmental Protection Agency, DOE and the state of Kentucky will work together to draft the final plan. The final phase will include a budget approval from Congress.

"If any of the alternatives or maybe a combination of the alternatives are selected, we have an obligation to request the complete funds from the Congress," DOE spokesman Walter Perry said. "We want to see what the people see as the best alternative."

Merryman Kemp, a member of the Site Specific Advisory Board, said public views could vary greatly.

"Some of the people will say we need to spend the money," she said. "Others will say it doesn't make any sense to spend $900 million."

She said she did not know which view the majority would take, but she would like an alternative that would ensure the safety of her grandchildren and eventual great-great-grandchildren.

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The DOE is asking for feedback from the community concerning the eight alternatives for groundwater contamination cleanup. Copies of the Feasibility Study are available at the McCracken County Public Library and the DOE Environmental Information Center in the West Kentucky Technology Park, 175 Freedom Blvd., in Kevil. The center is open Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Friday from 7 to 11 a.m. For information call 462-2550. Copies of the study are available for free on CD.

Comments on the study may be sent to Gary Bodenstein at the U.S. Department of Energy, Box 1410, Paducah, KY 42001.