FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 16, 2004
Schumer, King: Major Hurdle Cleared Towards Getting Hicksville Nuclear Site Cleaned Up
Schumer/King language included in massive 2005 Budget Bill signed by President last week sets stage for Energy Dep't to take over remediation of former Sylvania Electric Products plant now owned by Verizon
Plant produced nuclear fuel elements for US Gov't Cold War weapons reactors - Safety issues still require federal attention
US Senator Charles E. Schumer and US Representative Peter King today announced that the Federal Government will begin the necessary process to shift the responsibility for remediation of radiological contamination of the former Sylvania Electronics Plant in Hicksville to the Federal Government. The announcement means that safety and decontamination of the Hicksville site, which is adjacent to Cantiague Park, will now involve the expertise, experience, and resources of the federal government -- which could have significant effects on the speed and thoroughness of the cleanup.
"It's the federal government that created this mess, it's the federal government that should fix it," Schumer said. "They have the expertise and resources to do the cleanup in the quickest and most efficient way and they should do it because public safety comes first. They're doing it everywhere else in the country and should be doing it in New York."
"This Hicksville plant is part of the legacy of our nation's nuclear weapons program which enabled us to win the Cold War," Congressman King said. "Now it is appropriate that the Federal government take responsibility for this site's remediation. The language and funding secured by Senator Schumer and myself will go a long way to doing just that."
Sylvania operated a facility at the Hicksville site under contract with the US Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) from 1952 to 1965, producing nuclear fuel elements for the nation's weapons reactors. In 1967, while decommissioning the facility, the AEC conducted an extensive decontamination program and declared the site's radiation levels "acceptable" and the nine-acre area was "released for normal use." Based on the AEC's judgment, Sylvania signed a contractual release and sold the land.
During a subsequent review by the AEC in 1973, the Sylvania site was again found to be "decontaminated and decommissioned for unconditional release." In 1979, after a former Sylvania employee filed a complaint to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Department of Energy reexamined the site. However, this time they discovered that "levels found at the site may be of concern." The Department of Energy considered the site as a possibility for inclusion in the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP) but it was "eliminated from FUSRAP consideration" in 1987.
In 1996, GTE, which had then acquired Sylvania Electric Products, was informed that there might be residual nuclear contamination at the Hicksville site. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission later found radiological contamination above applicable levels. As a result, GTE entered into an agreement with New York State to remediate the site beginning in 2003. Verizon, which gained responsibility for the site when it merged with GTE, has spent approximately $1 million per week on site remediation and clean up but it is the federal government that has the expertise and resources to do the cleanup in the quickest and most efficient way. There are several sites throughout the country that the federal government is cleaning up.
This Summer, Congressman King and Senator Schumer asked now Democratic Leader Senator Harry Reid for assistance in addressing this issue through the annual appropriations process. With Senator Reid's help, Senator Schumer and Representative King were able to get the language included in the final version of the FY2005 Omnibus Appropriations Bill.
Included in the bill was language Schumer and King inserted that requires the Army Corp of Engineers to visit the Hicksville site and make recommendations to the US Department of Energy about the extent of the radiological contamination and clean up options at what was once a key Cold War nuclear contractor to the US Government.
President Bush signed the Omnibus Appropriations Bill into law Wednesday, December 8th. Schumer and King also thanked Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico for his help in getting the language passed.