Contaminated soil will have to remain at the site of a cleanup of a radioactively contaminated soil in Colonie as the federal government looks for money to continue to ship it west.
In April, the Army Corps of Engineers discovered five times the amount of contaminated soil they had anticipated in a particular area of the National Lead Industries plant on Central Avenue.
At the time, cleanup of the 11-acre site was 80 percent complete, said engineers. The 3,000 cubic yards of the Uranium 238-laden soil would prove to break the bank of federal money allocated to complete the dig by September.
Our goal is to clean this up, but because we found more contaminated soil and we were supposed to be done this year, the corps didn’t budget that much money, said James Moore, project manager for the New York District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Working from west to east, workers remove contaminated soil from half-acre sites at a time. To date, they have removed 175,000 cubic yards of soil.
The plan is to continue on with the cleanup of the remaining 3 acres on the site to meet the cleanup date. However, until money is secured to ship the soil to Idaho, engineers will have to pile the waste and keep it protected from the elements.
Cleanup of the site began in 1991 with the decontamination of homes and properties adjacent to the site. By the end of September, the end of the federal fiscal year, the site has cost $172 million to clean up, $33 million of which had gone towards shipping waste out west, said Moore.
Funded for the cleanup is through the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP). FUSRAP is a line item of the Energy and Water Development appropriations bill in Congress.
The program was established to clean up sites used as part of the Manhattan Project and other federal nuclear research sites.
National Lead contracted with the Department of Energy to fabricate aircraft ballast and projectiles constructed of de-pleted uranium shipped in from Africa.
For the 2006 fiscal year, the dig at National Lead was budgeted for $10.5 million, $1.5 million less than last year. As the project nears completion Congress typically lowers the amount budgeted for the following year, said Moore. For 2007, the site is to see much less than $10 million, he said.
`The proposed budget for FUSRAP’s fiscal year 2007 is $130 million,` said Army Corps of Engineers spokeswoman Candice Walters. `The House (of Representatives) has acted on it, the Senate has not.`
The proposed 2007 budget is $10 million less than the fiscal year 2006 request and $8.6 million less than the enacted level of $138.6 million for fiscal year 2006.
The program has the capability to obligate $200 million for FUSRAP activities.
Attempts to reach U.S. senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton, both Democrats, were unsuccessful.
Moore would not comment on the rough amount the corps anticipates to receive for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
For now the money remains in this year’s budget to get the soil out of the ground, he said. Once that is done, engineers will know exactly how much soil they will have to ship out at $250 per cubic yard.
There is one perk, said Moore. Storing the soil on the site will simplify the cleanup. Still, neighbors to the site that abuts the Albany city line have opposed any long-term storage of the contaminated soil on the site.
How long the soil could sit at the site, waiting for money to ship it out, Moore could not say at this juncture.
He and project engineers met with state Department of Environmental Conservation officials, project engineers and neighbors of the site to discuss the new plan.
Word of the cleanup delay had not made its way to Supervisor Mary Brizzell last week. In the past, the town has been notified of any change in plans of the cleanup, said Brizzell. The town has no hand in the cleanup, but does want to see the site cleaned, she said.
Once cleanup of the main site is completed, engineers will move onto another adjacent property owned by CSX Transportation Inc. Completion of that site should take two to three months, said Moore. Engineers are hoping to keep the total cleanup costs under $200 million, he said.“