Cleanup of contamination to start this spring at former Army depot

January 20, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

Cleanup of nuclear contamination at a former Army depot on Ordnance Road in Glen Burnie is to begin this spring, about a month after a public hearing on plans for the work, federal officials said yesterday.

The schedule was set up during a meeting of officials of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Defense Logistics Agency and Anne Arundel County, and representatives of two contractors who will do the cleanup work.

The meeting at the U.S. Army General Services Depot in Curtis Bay was scheduled to coordinate the various agencies and contractors involved in the removal of asbestos and thorium nitrate from nine warehouses on the 85-acre tract.

Anne Arundel County bought the site 12 years ago from the federal government to encourage economic development in the area.

County Executive Robert R. Neall's plan to build a 650-bed jail there was defeated in part by the discovery of the contaminated soil during an Nuclear Regulatory Commission survey in May 1992.

Thorium nitrate, a granular material used by some types of nuclear reactors, was stored in corroded barrels in the warehouse. It dissolved and leaked through the barrels into the ground, causing the contamination.

Work on the cleanup plan has progressed slowly but appears finally to be on track, said Michael Leahy, county land use coordinator. It should be completed in time for a public hearing within the next two or three months, he said.

Work on the site is to begin about a month after the hearing with the removal of 4-foot by 8-foot asbestos panels covering the exterior walls of the warehouses and demolition of the buildings.

The county will pay the Berg Group of Baltimore $330,000 for the asbestos removal.

County officials said they may try to recoup the cost from the federal government after the project is completed.

"It's still the county's position that this is a federal problem and that we're fronting the money to do the building removal," Mr. Leahy said. "That allows [the Defense Logistics Agency] to do the radioactive soil removal sooner."

The entire decontamination project should take about eight months, officials said.

Defense officials said that Rust Remediation Services, a Columbia, S.C., firm, will remove the radioactive soil.

The cost of that part of the project has not been determined, but representatives of the company said yesterday the amount of contamination appeared to be quite small.

At yesterday's meeting, the contractors and federal officials agreed to survey the walls of the warehouse up to a height of 6 feet to make sure the buildings are not contaminated, even though the contamination was found only in the soil.

The agreement will help speed the cleanup process by eliminating the need to examine the roofs of the buildings if no contamination is found on the lower sections of the walls.

Those at the meeting also agreed to conduct more extensive ground-water tests after the buildings and soil are removed.

"It was agreed that once the actual radioactive materials are removed, we will be doing ground-water studies to make sure there has been no migration and there is no additional radioactive material that would need removal," Mr. Leahy said.

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