The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Friday, June 22, 2001

Cleanup deadline at risk
Without more funding, 'itís going to push the (2010) deadline back to somewhere around 2015 at least,' the DOE's top official in Paducah says.

By Bill Bartleman

The U.S. Department of Energy will not meet its 2010 deadline for cleaning up the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant unless Congress adds at least $83 million to President Bush's funding recommendation for next year, according to DOE's top official in Paducah.

DOE needs at least $158 million during the 2002 fiscal year to meet normal operating expenses and to keep on track to meet the 2010 cleanup deadline, according to Don Seaborg, DOE's Paducah site manager. Bush, however, has recommended only $75.4 million.

It was the first time that anyone for DOE has publicly stated that the cleanup deadline was in jeopardy. "If we don't get the funds, itís going to push the deadline back to somewhere around 2015 at least," Seaborg said.

DOE faces legal action from the Kentucky Natural Resources Cabinet if it gets behind in the schedule that it agreed to in 1999. Gov. Paul Patton has said a lawsuit would be filed to force DOE to meet the deadline if the necessary funding was not allocated through the normal budget process.

Seaborg said cleanup priorities are made between those areas required in the agreement with the state and those required to meet other state and federal environmental laws. "The situation comes down to which laws you are not going to meet," he said in a report Thursday to the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant Citizens Advisory Board.

Seaborg also reported that the cleanup cost first estimated at $1 billion over 10 years will increase by at least $500 million. The increase is due to revised estimates on several projects and the cost of meeting the state Environmental Protection Agency's mandate to remove contaminated material from more than 150 material storage areas.

The cost could be even more if DOE and state and federal regulators can't agree on how to dispose of contaminated dirt that will be removed from an area known as the North-South Diversion Ditch, believed to be a major source of groundwater contamination.

DOE contends that 95 percent of the dirt can be placed in an on-site landfill because it contains levels of toxic chemicals and radioactive material that are below EPA limits. State and federal regulators, however, say the on-site landfill is not adequate to prevent further environmental problems.

Carl Froede Jr. of the federal Environmental Protection Agency said the landfill failed performance testing because it does not contain adequate drainage and does not have sufficient wells to monitor runoff from the landfill.

If DOE must place all of the dirt in containers and send it to another landfill, it will increase the cost by more than $30 million, Seaborg said.

Another area of dispute is what to do with a landfill that was used to dispose of classified material from work done for the Department of Defense, including disposal of dismantled nuclear weapons.

DOE plans to keep the material in the ground and cap the landfill. Regulators, however, say the classified material should be removed, which would increase the cleanup cost by an additional $232 million.

"We have the advantage of knowing what is in the landfill, and the regulators don't have that information because it's classified," Seaborg said. He said Tuss Taylor of the Kentucky Division of Waste Management was recently given security clearance to review classified records.

Taylor said he has reviewed some, but not all of the records, and hasn't been given enough information to decide if the materials pose a threat to the environment.