SCHUMER: LONG-AWAITED PLAN TO INVESTIGATE & CLEAN UP POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS RADIOACTIVE WASTE AT FORMER SYLVANIA CORNING PLANT IN HICKSVILLE IS LAGGING – AT-RISK RESIDENTS HAVE WAITED YEARS FOR ARMY CORPS TO CLEAN UP RADIOACTIVE URANIUM LEFTOVER FROM 1950’s COLD WAR GOVT NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM
In 2005 the Army Corps Accepted the Site into the ‘Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program’, Making Them Responsible for Cleanup Work; Shockingly, Schumer Says Army Corps Is Still In First of Four Phases for Cleanup & Calls for Remedial Investigation Report to Be Finished & Released So Cleanup Can Finally Begin
Schumer Also Pushes to Increase Funding for Fed Program To Clean Up Radioactive Sites; Program Has Been Woefully Underfunded for Years – There Are 7 New York Sites With Radioactive Contamination; Additional Funding Is Needed To Move Remediation Projects Forward
In the 1950s, Sylvania Corning Plant Produced Nuclear Fuel Rods for Power Plants That Use Uranium & Thorium, Which Contaminated Soil & Groundwater at Site on Cantiague Rock Road in Hicksville
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today revealed that after decades of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) involvement and responsibility for the cleanup of radioactive uranium and waste at the former Sylvania Corning Plant in Hicksville, the federal government is still only on phase one of four in the cleanup process. At-risk residents and former employees have waited for years for further information on the risk of the site to the community, and for complete clean-up, and Schumer therefore called on the Army Corps to finish and release a long-awaited remedial investigative report, which will allow a feasibility study of remedial actions, and cleanup work to move forward. Currently, that draft report is not expected to be released until next year. Between 1952 and 1965, Sylvania Electric Products conducted nuclear work on site under a contract to the Atomic Energy Commission as well as other nuclear work for commercial and other government contracts. The company produced nuclear fuel rods for power plants using radioactive materials, such as uranium and thorium, and similar volatile organic compounds like PCE and TCE. This waste has contaminated parts of the soil and ground water. In fact, in recent years, numerous employees working for a company on Cantiague Rock Road have developed illnesses that may be related to the former nuclear facility.
The current property consists of three buildings. While Verizon currently owns or leases the site, they are not responsible for the contaminants, and in 2005, the Army Corps of Engineers accepted the site into the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FURSAP), making them responsible for future remediation efforts. Schumer today called on the Army Corps to expedite this cleanup process, and will also call for more funding for the federal program that cleans up radioactive sites. Schumer said that FUSRAP has been woefully underfunded for years, and a funding boost is particularly important to New York, which has 7 radioactive sites.
“The radioactive waste sitting under Cantiague Rock Road in Hicksville is a hotbed for potential danger, and after years and years of waiting for answers, it is time that the Army Corps get a plan in place to mitigate the risk. Hicksville residents and nearby employees deserve action that will get radioactive waste out of their backyards, once and for all,” said Senator Schumer. “The Army Corps and Verizon have been monitoring the risk at the site, but we simply cannot wait any longer, which is why I am calling on the Army Corps to get their plan for the site out the door right away. It is the best way to alleviate local fears and manage the risk.”
Schumer continued, “There are 7 sites in New York with radioactive waste, and it is unacceptable that the program put in place to clean up these sites has been underfunded year after year. In order to clean them all up before they become a serious problem, we must secure more funding for the FUSRAP program. In this next Congress, I will make it clear to my colleagues how important this is New York and will fight tooth and nail to ensure that increasing FUSRAP funding is a priority.”
According to the Army Corps, between 1952-1965 the Sylvania Electric Products Facility was utilized for the manufacture of government and commercial nuclear elements for reactors used in research and electric power generation. Waste materials were frequently burned or disposed of on site in unlined sumps and directed to leach pools. Primary soil contaminants were uranium, thorium, solvents and nickel.
Even though radioactive waste was used at the Sylvania site over many years, it was not discovered until 1986. According to a 2002 New York Times article, state officials first learned that the Sylvania facility worked with nuclear material in 1996. In 1999, GTE—which later merged with Verizon—agreed to investigate the contamination. Verizon entered into a voluntary cleanup agreement with the NYSDEC. Verizon has already removed some of the toxic soil to Utah.
In 2005, the Army Corps designated the site a FUSRAP. FURSAP was initiated in 1974 to identify, investigate and clean up or control sites through the United States that had become contaminated from the nation’s early atomic weapons and energy programs during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. The Army Corps is in the “remedial investigation” stage of the FURSAP process and is determining whether contaminants on the site are impacting the local community and environment. Schumer said that the Army Corps expects to issue a draft report of their findings in FY2016 and after that, it will take approximately one year to finalize it. To date, the Army Corps has spent nearly $30 million on sampling and testing. Schumer said that for completion of the first stage of cleanup to still be years away is unacceptable.
Schumer urged the USACE to finalize the remedial investigative report and make the findings public as soon as possible. Schumer said that determining a path forward to contain and clean up the radioactive waste at the former Sylvania site is particularly important because of the hundreds of employees who have worked on the site since Sylvania Electric closed its doors.
Schumer also launched his push to secure more funding in the federal budget for FUSRAP. Schumer noted that there are 7 sites in New York with radioactive waste that are currently being monitored by the USACE and going through the remediation process.
Schumer said that the FUSRAP program currently includes 24 active sites in 10 states. Schumer said that the lack of progress on some of these sites is one of the main reasons he is pushing for more funding for FUSRAP. Funding for FUSRAP stayed relatively level between $140 million and $150 million a year since 1997, when the USACE began administering the program, and reached a peak of $240 million in 2009, with additional funds provided as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Since 2012, however, funding has decreased significantly, falling below $110 million. In fact, this year, the President only requested $100 million for the
program in the FY15 budget. Schumer said that this downward trend is unacceptable and leaves New York at risk, and he vowed to push for increased funding as part of the upcoming budgeting process for FY16.
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