Friday, October 10, 2003

Ohioans in D.C. blast plan for Fernald water

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Ohio congressmen sent a letter to the Department of Energy's top official involved in the Fernald nuclear cleanup, criticizing the agency for a plan that would allow it to stop treating contaminated groundwater next year. Instead, it would be dumped directly into the Great Miami River.

Reps. Steve Chabot of Cincinnati and Rob Portman of Terrace Park, along with Sens. Pat DeWine and George Voinovich, all Republicans, say in the letter they were unaware of the proposed change until reading of it in the Enquirer Oct. 4.

The letter is also critical of the DOE for keeping the idea secret for more than three months. The DOE's project manager, Fluor Fernald, completed the proposal June 30. A public hearing is scheduled Oct. 21.

"We strongly believe that in a project as costly, environmentally sensitive, and expansive as the Fernald clean-up - that affects the safety of workers, the health of surrounding communities and the stewardship of taxpayer dollars - public participation is essential in determining the most prudent approach to closure," the letter says.

"We would like to clearly state that we have serious concerns regarding any attempt to alter this agreement," the letter says.

DOE Ohio Field Manager Bob Warther, to whom the letter was addressed, was not in the office Thursday and had not seen the letter, according to spokesman Gary Stegner.

"Until we review the letter, we can't say anything," Stegner said.

The Great Miami Aquifer was contaminated by decades of radioactive waste being dumped in open fields at Fernald. Rainwashed that waste into Paddy's Run creek, which drains into the aquifer and directly into the underground lake.

Fluor Fernald, the company handling the $4.4 billion, taxpayer funded clean-up, prepared a report that outlines six alternatives to cleaning the groundwater in the treatment plant. Of the six alternatives, the DOE's preferred option is to tear down the treatment plant next year and stop treating the tainted groundwater altogether.


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