The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Friday, August 18, 2000
Paducah, Kentucky

'Drum mountain' cleanup going smoothly
Barrel removal third done now

By Bill Bartleman
BARKLEY THIELEMAN/The Sun--No baler, no trouble: Barrel crushing continues Thursday at ‘drum mountain.’

After two months of embarrassing and frustrating delays, Bechtel Jacobs officials say progress is finally being made in removing the 85,000 contaminated and rusty barrels from "drum mountain" at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

"We've got about one-third of the work done," Bechtel Jacobs spokesman Greg Cook said Thursday. "The new equipment and new procedure are working extremely well. We are confident of meeting the deadline of having all the work done by the end of the year."

Also, a Kentucky Natural Resources Cabinet spokesman said its investigators have had no additional problems gaining access to the plant to inspect the cleanup operation. Last month, investigators issued a notice of violation because they were delayed by more than an hour in gaining access to the work area. Plant officials said security procedures caused the delay.

"They haven't had any additional problem at all," cabinet spokesman Mark York said. "There also haven't been any additional notices of violation." Besides the violation for the inspection delay, a violation notice was issued in July after dust particles were observed rising from the operation. The problem was resolved when workers began "misting" the material with water to eliminate dust.

Cook said delays since the work began in June "have been embarrassing to everyone involved." The delays were caused by a troublesome baler that was compacting the drums after they were shredded.

After spending weeks trying to fix the baler, officials decided last week to take the baler out of service and place the shredded drums directly into containers that will be used to ship the waste to a hazardous waste dump in Utah.

A second shredder was added, and the work force and work hours were both increased.

Bechtel Jacobs has a $7 million contract with the U.S. Department of Energy to oversee the work, which is actually being done by USEC Inc., the company that operates the uranium enrichment plant. Under the original schedule, about 90 percent of the drums were to have been shredded and placed in containers by the end of this week. But only 22 percent had been completed during the first two months of work.

Ten percent more were shredded this week, after the baler was removed and new equipment added.

"It has been very frustrating," said Georgann Lookofsky, USEC spokeswoman. "Everyone has worked hard to try to get the problems resolved, including the vendor who supplied the baler. But it was just one thing after another."