LEWISTON – A federal budget proposal has local stakeholders concerned about the fate of a plan to remove radioactive waste buried at the Niagara Falls Storage Site.
April Fideli, the president of Residents for Responsible Government (RRG), a group focused on ending the dumping of toxic waste in Niagara County, said this past week that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should authorize the $490 million plan for the NFSS as soon as possible.
The site began as a dump for remnants of nuclear weapons manufacturing, including uranium core processing wastes and Radium-226, in 1944. Dumping lasted until about 1952, according to the corps. By 1986, a containment cell was constructed, a unit that is now nearing the end of its estimated useful life, Fideli said.
"The longer the material stays in this aging cell, the higher the risk of failure," she said. "This is a critically important project not just for Lewiston, but for the entire county."
Fideli said the project's importance is demonstrated by the government's high-level of proposed spending, which "highlights the health risk and also highlights the economics."
According to a resolution submitted to the Niagara County Legislature earlier this week by Vice Chairman Clyde Burmaster, R-Sanborn, the plan was originally put forward for authorization about 18 months ago, but has since languished without explanation.
And now, under the federal budget proposal, the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP) under which the long coming and already delayed plan was created could be transferred from the corps to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Without a record of decision signed by the U.S. Army Corps, if the transfer occurs, the public will have no certainty as to when and if the project will be undertaken by the DOE, which had previously lost FUSRAP in 1997 due to "ineffective management," according to Burmaster.
The federal proposal would make the corps a contractor to the DOE, the successor to government agencies that originally polluted the NFSS site.
"This is very important," Burmaster said in a meeting at which he and his colleagues unanimously supported a measure calling for the record of decision to be signed.
Fideli also serves as RRG’s representative to the Restoration Advisory Board , the local body that evaluates the corps' work at the NFSS, which has scheduled a public forum on the topic for 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Lew-Port Central School District Community Resource Center, 4061 Creek Road.
Bill Choboy, the chairman of the board, said in a prepared statement announcing the meeting that he and others "thought our primary objective was virtually complete" when the cleanup plan was announced in 2015.
"All the community needed was the customary public comment period for the final record of decision," he said. "We expected the ROD would be published by the corps in 2017, but that still hasn’t happened, even though the plan was supported by every involved state and federal agency."
Bill Kowalewski, the corps' special projects branch chief in its City of Buffalo office, is slated to speak to members of the board and public on the status of the NFSS's record of decision at the meeting.
WHEN: Tuesday March 26, 7 p.m.
WHERE: the Lew-Port Central School District Community Resource Center's Alumni Room, 4061 Creek Rd., Youngstown, NY
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