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SLDA Frequently Asked Questions

Question Answer
 Site Activities
Do you still plan to excavate the material?  We are committed to safely excavating and removing the material that is on the site. We will continue to work with the Department of Energy, Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to achieve that end.
 Has all of the excavated material (both radiological and chemical) been removed from the site?  No
Why is it taking so long to remove the excavated material? To date, we’ve safely removed 167 truckloads of material from your community. It’s a time-consuming process to properly characterize the material we are digging up and we want to ensure we’re taking precautions to safeguard workers and the community. We’re focused on safety, not the speed of production.
Are you removing all of the contaminated material? No. Under the law, the Corps is only authorized to remove radioactive waste and other chemical material comingled with radioactive waste above a certain threshold. The site owner is responsible for any chemical materials found and has agreed to work with the PA Department of Environmental Protection to dispose of them accordingly.
How long will the project take now? Our estimate is 8-10 years, but many things can affect the schedule including weather, funding and the complexity of work. The clean-up will take as long as it takes to remove this material safely.
What is the status of the trenches now? All trenches have been closed.
What will happen to the site during down time? All trenches will remain closed and security will remain on the site. We are currently packaging and transporting all excavated material while concurrently transitioning into a new contract. We are developing new work plans for the site.
What happens if you find unexpected material in the trenches? If unexpected materials are detected at levels that are considered a threat to workers or community safety, work will stop, and engineering safety controls will be implemented. The material will be characterized and disposed of in a safe manner.
What were the levels of contamination in the site’s surface soils? Our investigation of the site indicated that isolated areas over and around the trenches had levels that are slightly above the natural background. We will remediate these isolated areas. These levels, while elevated above background, do not pose a risk to human health or the environment.
How are you getting the material into the building from the trenches? Material is placed into a dump truck, taken into the material-handling building, and sorted inside the building.
How many drums are estimated to be at the site? Historical records indicate about 1,000 drums were buried along with other types of waste containers.
What is the final destination of the contaminated material? A permitted radiological waste management site in Utah managed by a company called Energy Solutions.
Will the Corps be working in more than one trench at a time? We started work in two trenches but no excavation is currently underway. The unexcavated portions of those trenches will remain covered until excavation restarts.
Have we been exposed to contaminants during excavation? No. There has been no release of contaminants on or off-site.
How do you know there has been no release? We know there has been no release because there are several protective measures in place including air handling systems, monitors and alarms. We regularly inspect these systems to ensure they are functioning properly and there has been no indication of a release.
Is there additional monitoring/alert equipment on site due to the complexity of the material? The current air handling units, monitoring systems and alarms are designed to handle the full spectrum of material.
What was the outcome of your investigation into the previous safety violation? We performed an internal review and found that the contractor failed to follow our work plan. Those involved in the violation no longer work at the site. We have conducted re-training and additional education of the workforce. We have required the contractor to increase their managerial and technical staff. We have also increased our oversight.
Incident Response and Coordination
Are there adequate resources on site to respond to incidents related to the material discovered? Yes. Through our coordination with local partners and first responders, we are prepared for contingencies that we may encounter at the site.
In case of an incident, what is the plan to notify and evacuate residents, if necessary?
The local responders will inform residents of any necessary actions based on the incident. The Corps and our contract partners worked with the local communities’ first responders (police, EMS, fire and rescue), Armstrong County Emergency Management officials, Region 13 Emergency Management Team and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) to develop an Incident Response Plan. The plan has also been rehearsed and exercised with each of our response team partners listed above in addition to associated contracted response resources. We have also gathered first responders onsite to provide awareness and preparedness training.
Are there going to be EMS and HAZMAT units’ onsite? No. However, the Corps and our contract partners in coordination with local EMS and county HAZMAT responders have included addressing this type of response within our Incident Response Plan. We have met with local responders to provide specific site awareness and preparedness training if a response is required.
Have you done testing outside of the site to ensure there is no exposure to the community? We have adequate on and off site monitors.
What is the risk of radiological contamination to nearby residents? The risk is low. Several measures are in place to further reduce risk.
1) Airborne contamination is controlled by wetting the work surfaces to ensure that contaminated particles do not pose a threat.
2) The pace of excavation was and will continue to be slow, thorough and deliberate. The amount of radiological contamination will be measured before it is excavated.
3) The air concentration around the dig is measured and monitored for worker and community safety.
4) Air inside the material handling building is controlled and treated before it is emitted.
5) Groundwater is monitored with in-situ sensors continuously and sampled no less than monthly.
What is the Corps doing to ensure contaminants don’t runoff onto adjacent properties? The Corps has robust erosion control measures and a water collection system in place to contain sediment and water from exiting the excavation sites. In the unlikely event that contamination is discovered outside the site boundaries, the Corps will stop work, and assess and remedy the situation.
How will the Corps prevent contaminated water from leaving the site? Waste water generated during the remediation and storm water run-off within the contaminated areas will be collected and treated in accordance with applicable standards at an on-site water treatment plant.
Has the Corps considered the impact of remediation on the stability of the underground mines? The stability of the mines has been evaluated by professional geologists who determined that the mines will not be compromised by excavation and on-site activities.
What is the Corps doing to prevent the flow of contaminated water through the mines? Waste water generated during the remediation and storm water within the contaminated areas will be collected and will not flow through the underground mines.
Are the trenches going to be covered during excavation? If not, how will you keep airborne contaminants from leaving the site? There is no plan to cover the trenches. Air contaminants will be controlled by wetting the work areas to prevent wind-blown particles. This is the preferred and common techniques used at all Corps clean-up sites. In addition, air monitoring and sampling units will be places on individual workers, around the trench areas, and around the perimeter of the site.
What are the potential impacts to residents during construction operations? There will be noise associated with work activities equivalent to what is typically experienced in association with construction activity. Additionally, residents might expect an increase in road traffic as a result of site work.
What do the air monitors measure? The perimeter air monitors are set at the average height of a person and measure upwind, crosswind and downwind particles for radiological contaminants.
How will you verify that the remediation is complete? The Corps and its primary contractor are responsible for site remediation; an additional contractor will verify that the site meets the criteria for unrestricted use as it relates to radiological contamination.
How is the Corps addressing possible contamination to neighboring drinking water wells? It has been determined that groundwater at the site has not been impacted by radiological constituents. Therefore, there is no related contamination in nearby wells.
Was the gas line being moved because it’s contaminated or because it’s in the line of excavation? The gas line was moved because of the excavation. 
How will you protect workers in the trenches? All applicable safety regulations will be adhered to, such as requiring workers to wear personal protective equipment. Monitoring devices will also be placed around the trenches.
Is the Corps going to take core samples of our property for contamination? No. We have robust erosion and water control measures in place to ensure properties will not be contaminated.
Is there data collected during the investigation available to the public? Yes. Sampling data of on-site soil and ground water testing is contained in the Remedial Investigation documentation, which is available at the Apollo Library and the Corps’ district office in Pittsburgh. Please call 412.395.7500 if interested in viewing at the Corps office.
What kind of material did you find? There are rules in place meant to protect the community and the nation and, as stated before, we can’t release specific information on the material we have removed from the trenches.
Why have you removed all of the workers and changed security procedures at the site? We are not permitted to discuss security measures at the site.
Will there be security on the site? There will be year-round, 24-hour, 7-day a week security on site.
Why was there a change in Corps’ Project Team? We continually evaluate our managerial and technical staffing and adjust according to site conditions and activities as well as what we’ve learned. We have brought on additional staff to assist with oversight activities, coordination and contract acquisition.
Schedule and Contracting
Could finding unexpected material extend the project duration? Yes. Public safety is paramount. We will take our time and remove the material in a safe manner. If unexpected material is discovered that may pose a risk, excavation will stop until the material is characterized and appropriate safety controls are in place.