Thursday, March 11, 2004

Fernald cleanup firm cited

Company lost $100,000 for safety violations

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

CROSBY TWP. - Fluor Fernald, the company in charge of the $4 billion cleanup at the cold-war era Fernald uranium plant, lost $100,000 in profit because of repeated safety violations last year.

In a letter to the construction giant dated March 6, officials with the U.S. Department of Energy said they were keeping the money, based on a list of more than 41 safety violations between July and September of 2003.

Among the problems cited:

• Two structural steel beams, each weighing thousands of pounds, fell but didn't hit anyone.

• An unmanned forklift rolled into and punctured a hazardous waste barrel.

• A structural steel beam fell on a worker's foot.

• A 480-volt electrical line fell on a tractor-trailer after being snagged by the vehicle. Two days later, an excavator struck a utility pole supporting an energized 480-volt electrical line.

Gary Stegner, spokesman for the DOE, which manages the project, said there have been no other monetary incentives withheld from Fluor to date this year. "Their performance has been very good since then," Stegner said.

Fluor spokesman Jeff Wagner said his company doesn't think withholding the fee is "reasonable."

"We acknowledge we had room for improvement, but we think we addressed their concerns," Wagner said.

And last week, Fluor accidentally released an as-yet undetermined amount of uranium into the Great Miami River, officials said.

The discharge came from resin that cleans tainted groundwater and rainwater. The resin carries high levels of uranium. Bill Hurtel, who oversees the cleaning of wastewater at Fernald, said it is unclear how the resin leaked but he thinks one of the site's five treatment plants leaked about two days.

An analyst taking samples in the river March 4 discovered the resin. Later, Fluor officials found out an analyst a day earlier also found resin.

"We do know we lost some resin, and we're in the process of trying to quantify how much," Hurtel said.

The Fernald cleanup started in 1992. The project is to be finished by the June, 2006 deadline.


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