After Major Casey Effort: EPA, Army Corps of Engineers and CDC Pursuing Investigation of Armstrong County Former Nuclear Site’s Potential Risk to Public Health

Initial Study of Health Impacts from Armstrong County Former Nuclear Site Contained Data Gaps

Senator Called on Agencies to Fully Investigate Potential Harm to Residents

Shallow Land Disposal AreaWashington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will expand a study of the potential risks to public health from the Shallow Land Disposal Area (SLDA). Senator Casey previously sent a letter to the agencies calling for them to collaborate on a comprehensive study of the area.

“I am glad that the EPA, the Army Corps and the CDC have agreed to work together to help us better understand the complete impact and any health risks associated with the Shallow Land Disposal Area,” said Senator Casey. “I called for this review because the EPA’s initial findings were incomplete.  It is critical that all of the relevant agencies work together so that residents get the answers they deserve.”

The SLDA site is contaminated by nuclear and chemical material that reportedly includes “complex” nuclear material and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from previous disposal activities conducted on the property. The SLDA site is adjacent to homes, businesses and the Kiskiminetas River. After residents raised concerns about the public health risks from the SLDA site, EPA and CDC conducted the initial study. Upon releasing the study EPA and CDC found that existing data did not indicate health risks but acknowledged that the data was incomplete and definitive conclusions about public health risks could not be made.

Senator Casey’s letter to the EPA, USACE, and CDC  calling for this investigation can be found below:

Dear Administrator Jackson, Assistant Secretary Darcy, and Dr. Portier:

I am writing to request that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) cooperate on a follow up study regarding the Shallow Land Disposal Area (SLDA) site in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania. Specifically, I urge your agencies to answer questions that remain following the release of the EPA’s Site Inspection report and the ATSDR’s Technical Assistance report on December 3, 2012.

As you know, the SLDA site is contaminated by nuclear and chemical material that includes “complex” nuclear material and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from previous disposal activities conducted on the property. The SLDA site is adjacent to homes, businesses and the Kiskiminetas River. USACE has managed the clean-up at the SLDA site since 2002 under the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP).

In 2010, a concerned citizen wrote to EPA and the President expressing the community’s concerns about their risk and exposure pathways. After reviewing the data EPA decided to investigate and brought in ATSDR for consultation. Soil, groundwater, and surface water pathways were all examined and no contamination was found offsite. However, EPA and ATSDR concluded that “too many data gaps exist to determine potential risk and exposure to the nearby community of Kiskimere and other nearby residents.” Both the ATSDR and EPA studies noted shortcomings in the studies and important questions that remain unanswered, such as:

  • Unusually “clean” water given the site’s history and current activities
  • Inaccessible wells on the southern property boundary
  • Lack of data for wells on site
  • Inaccurate assumptions regarding private groundwater use in the area
  • Recently installed abandoned mine discharge treatment ponds that may become new exposure pathways
  • Disposal of contaminated material in surrounding mine shafts
  • Additional sample evaluation should be based on radiological analyses
  • Additional analyses for water and soil samples needed
  • Complex hydrogeology that warrants further study

Additional study is needed to address the community’s concerns of exposure to radiation and contaminants found on the SLDA site. Therefore, I ask USACE, EPA, and ATSDR to work together to address the shortcomings and unanswered questions of the initial study by conducting a second study that will specifically address the potential risk and exposure of Kiskimere residents and other nearby residents.

Thank you for your attention to this very important issue. Please keep me informed of your decision regarding another study phase. I look forward to working with you to ensure the safety of the communities surrounding the SLDA site.

                                                            Sincerely,

                                                            Robert P. Casey, Jr.

                                                            United States Senator

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