Feds release cleanup plan for radioactive landfill

TOWN OF TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) — Dozens of families who live next to radioactive waste finally know what the feds will do to clean it up. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to remove the top five feet of contaminated soil at the old Tonawanda landfill and take it off-site for disposal.

That process is expected to cost upwards of $10 million dollars, according to Arleen Kreusch, outreach program specialist for the Corps. “The capital costs include preparation of a remedial design work plan, excavation, confirmatory sampling, transport, off-site disposal, site restoration, and preparation of a remedial action completion report and long-term management plan,” Kreusch said via email.

LEARN MORE | Read the Record of Decision

News 4 Investigates has tracked the toxic trouble for years at the old Town of Tonawanda landfill.  It’s just north of the 290. The radioactive waste is mostly Uranium that was leftover from the creation of the first atomic bomb .

The record of decision released Thursday follows years of pressure from News 4, neighbors and even Senator Charles Schumer. He visited the neighborhood in 2015 telling the Corps of Engineers to “…get to work ASAP!”

The landfill is owned by the Town of Tonawanda. The adjacent homes on Hackett Drive are in the City of Tonawanda. Mayor Rick Davis believes this is a good step forward. Still, he wonders how long it will take for the clean-up to begin.

“The site here in tonawanda won’t even begin until the other sites are remediated. I have a feeling it might be decades,” he said.

Records obtained by News 4 Investigates show the radioactive waste came from the linde air site, only miles away. The Army disposed of 37 million gallons of waste in underground wells. Letters we reviewed show the company’s wells clogged up, and workers started dumping the waste into a ditch which ran into two mile creek. That contaminated sediment got buried in the landfill in the late 40s and early 50s. The feds didn’t find it until 1990.

“This is going to be a significant project, and it’s going to take a lot of coordinated effort between the federal, government and the town and the city in order to make sure this is done correctly,” Mayor Davis suggested.

To date, the Corps of Engineers has spent $6.5 million on the site, according to Kreusch. She confirmed, the design and start of the clean-up work is contingent upon the completion of other projects around the country and necessary funding.

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