The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Thursday, October 02, 2003

Doe, state sign agreement to hasten cleanup at plant

By Joe Walker

State and federal officials have signed a long-awaited agreement designed to quicken cleanup of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

The agreed order was signed Wednesday by Hank List, secretary of the Kentucky Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet, and Jessie Roberson, U.S. Department of Energy assistant secretary for environmental management.

It resolves enforcement and compliance issues for various work at the plant and requires the Energy Department to pay a $1 million penalty for state-cited hazardous waste infractions. DOE also will spend $200,000 for environmental improvement projects at the plant, List said.

"We now have a commitment from DOE on enforceable cleanup projects and dates," he said.

Among other things, the agreement allows cleanup contractors to proceed with:

Cleaning up a ditch contaminated by runoff from past plant operations. That work started about a month ago.

Removing 53,000 metric tons of scrap metal.

Characterizing certain waste-storage areas.

Investigating groundwater contamination at two landfills.

Writing federal budget committees that the plant should now be eligible for millions of dollars in added funding that Congress made contingent on the agreement.

The agreement formalizes an August letter of intent between the state and Energy Department giving DOE more leeway in cleanup, extending the cleanup deadline from 2010 to 2019 and establishing new timetables for cleaning up the most serious environmental problems.

It resolves most issues that had prevented officials from signing an accelerated cleanup agreement that DOE proposed two years ago. If DOE fails to meet compliance commitments in the agreement, it could be assessed additional fines.