FOLLOWING A MAJOR PUSH BY SCHUMER, US ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS INCLUDES $9.5 MILLION IN FUNDING FOR TONAWANDA LANDFILL REMEDIATION PROJECT IN 2018 WORK PLAN; SCHUMER SAYS WITH FUNDS NOW SECURED WORK CAN FINALLY BEGIN TO CLEAN UP POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS RADIOACTIVE WASTE– SCHUMER SAYS RESIDENTS HAVE WAITED LONG ENOUGH, AND VOWS TO SEE PROJECT TO COMPLETION
Millions Of Gallons Of Radioactive Waste From The Manhattan Project Were Dumped In Tonawanda, Resulting In Significant Amount Of Contaminated Soil At Tonawanda Landfill; The Landfill Poses A Health Risk To Residents; Studies Show Radioactive Waste Has Potentially Destructive Effects On Human Health
For Years Schumer Has Pushed For The Remediation Of The Site And Removal Of The Waste; Today, The Army Corps Announced That The Project Was Included In Their FY2018 Work Plan
Schumer: Tonawanda Residents Deserve To Know They Aren’t Being Saddled With The Burden Of Waste From The First Atomic Bomb
Following his push, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced $9.5 million in federal funding to clean up the Tonawanda Landfill was included in the FY2018 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) work plan. Schumer said the funding will be used to prepare scope of work and award a remediation contract to address radioactive waste that has been sitting underneath the Tonawanda Landfill for decades. Schumer says the funding will also ensure continued coordination with the public and regulators. This waste, which is mostly uranium left over from the days of the Manhattan Project, has contaminated the soil and experts believe that without remediation it could begin to cause adverse health effects for local residents, including the students at Riverview Elementary School, which is mere feet from the contaminated site. The funding was provided through the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP), which aims to identify, investigate and clean up control sites contaminated from the nation’s early atomic weapons and energy programs during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Schumer praised the USACE for including this site in their FY2018 work plan.
“Simply put, finalizing a plan to clean up radioactive waste at the Tonawanda Landfill is long overdue, and I applaud the U.S. Army Corps for responding to the community’s concerns I raised with them and including this project in their 2018 work plan – and for providing the funding needed to clean up this mess,” said Senator Schumer. “I have visited the homes of the residents deeply worried about the radioactive pollution at this landfill. Parents should not have to worry about their kids playing outside or question whether it is safe to send their kids to nearby Riverview Elementary. The Army Corps, which has done an excellent job monitoring the risk at the site, and their decision to include the Tonawanda Landfill clean up in the 2018 work plan will finally give Tonawanda residents peace of mind. I’m proud of the role I played to secure this funding, and will always fight to ensure that Western New Yorkers aren’t forced to shoulder the burden of destructive and damaging waste.”
According to a report conducted by New York State, millions of gallons of radioactive waste from the Army's Manhattan Project were pumped into underground wells under the Linde Ceramics Plant uranium refinery between 1944 and 1946. When those wells clogged and began to overflow, workers began dumping the waste into a ditch that ran to Two Mile Creek. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, radioactive sediment from Two Mile Creek was dug up and dumped underneath the Tonawanda Landfill, which is a 55-acre piece of land located just north of I-290 on the border between the City of Tonawanda and the Town of Tonawanda. Previous investigations found small areas of soil in the Tonawanda Landfill containing elevated levels of radium, thorium, and uranium.
Even though radioactive waste was dumped at the Tonawanda Landfill over many years, it was not discovered until the early 1990s, when the Department of Energy (DOE) conducted a radiological survey of the property. As a result of the high levels of radioactive waste that this survey uncovered, a portion of the Landfill, along with the adjacent Mudflats, was designated a FUSRAP property. FUSRAP 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.
Since being designated a FUSRAP site, the USACE, which is responsible for FUSRAP, has conducted two studies to determine whether the radioactive waste poses a threat to human health. The original baseline assessment found that there was no risk to human health, but a second study, which was performed in 2010 after questions were raised about some of the data used in the first study, made it clear that there is a potential risk, particularly if the radioactive waste becomes exposed due to erosion of the soil. As a result of the findings of the second study, the USACE developed options to mitigate the potential future risks to human health.
Schumer has long pushed to clean up the uranium waste under the Tonawanda Landfill. Today’s announcement follows up on his 2015 visit, where Schumer urged the USACE to finalize the potential remediation options and make them public as soon as possible. According to Schumer, the cleanup of the Tonawanda Landfill is particularly important because the site is close to so many residences and a nearby school. Bordering the landfill to the north is a major residential neighborhood in the City of Tonawanda, and just feet away from the landfill is Riverview Elementary School.
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