Contamination found underground at former weapons site
Radioactive leak is feared

By Aaron Besecker
July 19, 2009, 7:32 AM

An underground container that holds about half of the world’s supply of radium may be leaking into groundwater in northwestern Niagara County, an advisory group to federal regulators warns.

The Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency responsible for investigating an area in the towns of Lewiston and Porter holding leftovers from the Manhattan Project, has found uranium contamination beneath ground level in portions of a former federal weapons site.

But corps officials insist there are no leaks in a 10-acre cell, known as the Interim Waste Containment Structure, constructed in the mid-1980s on the 191-acre Niagara Falls Storage Site as a temporary container for various radioactive wastes and other radiological materials.

Those substances include uranium and about half the world’s supply of radium.


Excerpt from the full Buffalo News story, which can be viewed at:

TNSI NOTE: While the bermed sides and the cap of the Niagara Falls Storage Site's "Interim Waste Containment Structure" (i.e. landfill, aka "cell" or "tumulus") are constructed of uniform, engineered clay, the bottom of the cell is simply native soils and does not meet the federal 10 CFR Part 40 Appendix A site and design performance standards for a long-term disposal landfill (contained in the Technical Criteria section of 10CFR40 App. A). These native, largely clay soils are known to have porous discontinuities, such as sand lenses, through which contaminated groundwater is able to move much more quickly.

In response to this Buffalo News story, the Buffalo District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a news release stating that "(F)indings indicate the IWCS life, or time when the cell is predicted to begin leaking into groundwater, to be 160 years." This is an interesting admission of this cell's inherent design flaws, in light of the fact that Technical Criterion 6 of the 10CFR40 App. A performance standards requires that such a disposal cell provide "reasonable assurance of control of radiological hazards to (i) be effective for 1,000 years, to the extent reasonably achievable, and, in any case, for at least 200 years".

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