Editorial Page/Letters to the Editor The Washington Post 1150 15th St, NW Washington, DC 20071 May 4, 2000 Dear Editor: The May 1 letter from Lt. General Joe Ballard claiming The Post "unfairly portrayed" the cleanup being done by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the Linde/Praxair site is an obfuscation that ignores the pertinent facts. First, Ballard claims "the site will be decontaminated to levels at or below Nuclear Regulatory Commission standards." What he fails to mention is that the NRC rule being applied by the Corps at Linde is not an "applicable or appropriate and relevant requirement" (ARAR) under CERCLA for this site. Instead, this recent NRC regulation, called the Uranium Recovery Facilities Rule [69 FR 17506, April 12, 1999], was developed specifically as a loophole for a few currently operating western uranium mills which claimed they could not meet the NRC's general License Termination Rule, previously adopted on July 21, 1997 [at 62 FR 39058]. Prior to its taking effect, the local public interest group F.A.C.T.S. (For A Clean Tonawanda Site) Inc. commented on the weak provisions of the Uranium Recovery rule, maintaining that it could not be applied to FUSRAP sites because no impact assessment had been done for these sites. NRC agreed that this rule was not applicable to FUSRAP sites. In its January 12, 2000 letter to the Corps, EPA takes the same position, stating "[w]e do not recognize the 15 pCi/g radium level is an ARAR, and therefore do not accept that the technique of benchmarking is applicable in this circumstance [the Linde site]." The "technique of benchmarking" that EPA refers to is the Uranium Recovery rule. Second, the claim that radioactivity contained in Building 30 debris sent to a Buttonwillow, CA landfill was at RCRA-acceptable levels is refuted by data in the Corps' (previously the Energy Department's) "EE/CA for Building 30 at Praxair, February 1998" on pages 8-10: ..."Dust samples collected from the rafters, vent fan, and overhead crane contained U-238 concentrations ranging from 110 to 4,100 picocuries per gram (pCi/g), Ra-226 ranging from 27 to 2,200 pCi/g, and Th-230 ranging from 7.1 to 3,800 pCi/g. ... The 1996 limited survey on the building exterior found one location (on the east wall) above guidelines. This area was measured at 7,800 dpm/100cm2. ... Results from surveys conducted inside Building 30 indicate that the building contains sufficient residual radioactivity to require radiological controls. ....." These are far from "low levels". Levels of uranium above 170 pCi/g U-238 requires licensure as "source material" by NY State under the Atomic Energy Act. Lastly, it is a violation of longstanding NRC rules to employ dilution as a means of achieving concentration limits -- by either averaging over clean or cleaner volumes (as USACE has proposed at Linde/Praxair) or the physical blending down of higher concentrations with cleaner material. Based on actual waste volumes removed in completed operations at other Tonawanda Site properties compared to Energy Department figures, it is appears that the Corps has utilized soil blending, which to a certain extent is unavoidable in large earth moving operations. This is why it is essential that before any digging occurs the proper cleanup levels and removal methods be established, and also why F.A.C.T.S. had sought (unsuccessfully) a temporary restraining order when it brought suit over the 1998 Corps' Ashland properties cleanup decision. Sincerely, James Rauch F.A.C.T.S. (For A Clean Tonawanda Site), Inc.
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