The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Thursday, December 07, 2000
Paducah, Kentucky

Drum mountain cost growing

By Bill Bartleman

Environmental officials think they have figured out why there is water inside containers filled with shredded and bailed radioactive drums removed from "drum mountain" at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

The water was discovered when the containers were opened at a hazardous waste landfill in Utah. It will cause a slight increase in the removal cost that already had increased by 40 percent, said Greg Cook, spokesman for cleanup contractor Bechtel Jacobs Co.

"We think it is caused by condensation," Cook said. "They are getting a hard freeze at night and it is warming up during the day, causing condensation to form inside."

The discovery of the water will require Envirocare, the landfill operator, to take additional measures to remove the water.

"They are dumping the containers in a clay lined pit so the clay can absorb the water," Cook said. "They also are spraying water on the material to hold down the dust. The material and the clay is then being placed in the landfill."

Cook didn't know how much the additional step will cost but indicated it should be less than $100,000.

The cost of removing "drum mountain" originally was set at $7 million, but increased to $10 million because of the amount of unexpected "non-conforming" material that was found in the pile.

The "non-conforming" material was mostly different types of drums and metal other than the crushed rusted steel drums that contained residue of mildly radioactive uranium tetrafluoride.

Engineers had estimated that the "non-conforming" material would fill five storage boxes and five barrels. It ended up filling 129 storage boxes and 24 barrels. The "non-conforming" containers are still at the Paducah plant, Cook said.

The shredded and bailed drums filled 166 containers, of which 78 are at the Utah landfill and 47 are on trains headed for Utah. The remaining drums are still in Paducah and have either been loaded on rail cars or are waiting for more rail cars. The last shipment is expected to leave the plant by the end of the month.

Drum mountain was a 35-foot-high pile of 85,000 drums that was the most visible sign of years of contamination at the plant. DOE officials promised Congress last spring that the drums would be removed by the end of the year.

The removal project was troubled from the start because of repeated equipment breakdowns and excessive dust that resulted in the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection issuing citations for clean air violations.

However, the problems were overcome and extra equipment and manpower were used to meet the deadline.