Beshear Maxey Flats

Gov. Steve Beshear speaks at Maxey Flats in Fleming County, Wednesday. Beshear discussed plans to place a final cap over the former nuclear waste disposal facility.

HILLSBORO | Gov. Steve Beshear held a press conference at Maxey Flats on Wednesday to announce the approval of a $35.2 million funding request.

According to Beshear, $18 million of the funds will come from the Capital and Emergency trust accounts and $17 million is from general bonds.

The trust fund was established years ago, according to Beshear. 

The Maxey Flats Nuclear Disposal site accepted radioactive waste from 1963 until 1977. The EPA placed the site on the National Priorities List in 1986 because of contaminated soil, surface water and ground water resulting from facility operations.

According to Division of Waste Management Director Tony Hatton, the money in the trust came from the companies involved in dumping low level radioactive waste in the trenches at the site.

The companies were directed to set up a trust by the Environmental Protection Agency for the future closure of the site, according to Hatton.

"The money was put into an bank account and has collected insurance over the years," Hatton said.  "The state was told they could use it in case of an emergency or to put on a final cap at the Maxey Flats site."

Beshear began the conference by welcoming guests and thanking everyone for their help in bringing the Maxey Flats project to the final closure.

"We're celebrating the next phase of the environmental challenge at Maxey Flats," the governor said. "The Environmental Protection Agency has approved the final cap to be put into place and the General Assembly has approved the funds."

Beshear said the project will take approximately three years to complete.  Two to three dozen contractors will be hired throughout that time.

"Some of these contractors will be local," he said.  "Those who aren't, will be here and spending their money in the local stores and stimulating the local economy."

Beshear said Maxey Flats is the largest Superfund site in Kentucky.

The cleanup of the site happened in steps, according to Environmental Technologist 3 Tom Stewart.

First, there were studies to determine the best options for the facility. In 1988, EPA emergency response officials solidified 286,000 gallons of radioactive contaminated trench water.

In March 1991, the response team disposed of the solidified water in an underground trench and installed 30 acres of a temporary above-ground impermeable sheet to prevent infiltration of rain.

Between 1992 and 1995, there was lengthy negotiations about who should incur the costs of the cleanups. It was finally decided there would be a list compiled of those who dumped at the site. A demaximus list, which consisted of 50 companies and people, included those who dumped massive amounts at the site and the deminimus list, of more than 300, included those who had dumped at some point or another.

In September 1998, Phase I officially began. During this phase, a concrete bunker was constructed to dispose of the solidified waste. Approximately 900,000 gallons of contaminated water was processed in this phase.

Following completion of Phase I, construction of an interim cap began. The cap was put in place to prevent water infiltration. A groundwater channel to redirect water away from the waste was also put in place.

According to Stewart, the cap is strong enough to hold vehicles regularly.

In 2003, a certificate from the EPA officially ended the remedial phase and the project was considered to be in the Interim Maintenance Phase.

During this phase, the project would undergo initial cap maintenance, trench management, instillation of a new flow barrier for the water, if needed, and site maintenance and monitoring.

In 2007, a five-year review from the EPA show the site to be "functioning as intended." And earlier this year, it was declared that the flow barrier would not need replacing.

In 2009, the Kentucky Division of Waste Management, at the recommendation of the EPA, initiated a feasibility study to evaluate natural stabilization progress, estimated costs, and define management requirements. The study concluded that natural stabilization had occurred.

In April, the Kentucky General Assembly approved over $35 million to cover the funding of a permanent cap.

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In September, the Division of Waste Management officially requested to move from IMP to the final closure period.

According to Beshear, the final closure period was approved earlier this year.

According to Hatton, before the cap can be applied, several steps need to be taken.

First, 600,000 to one million cubic feet of soil will need to be placed over the interim cap to shape the land.

"We went back and forth about removing the interim cap first," he said.  "But, we decided it would be best to leave it because it adds more distance between the waste and the people."

Hatton said the next step will be to add a geo-grid to help alleviate sliding and tearing on the cap, before adding more soil.  A geo-synthetic clay liner will also be added.

After the liner is added, a drainage layer will be put into place, to drain water away from the cap.

Hatton said he hopes the beginning steps will begin by the end of the year.

"We are committed to long term and short term protection," he said.  "We have full time staff who monitor and take samples to collect and analyze to insure compliance and safety.  We couldn't ask for a finer group of people."

Hatton also said the approved funding will be used to purchase land in the surrounding area.

"We want to purchase some of the surrounding land to add more distance between the people and the site, as well as to use the soil for the project," he said.

The construction of the actual Cap is expected to begin in 2014 and be completed by late 2015 or early 2016.

"We're going to make this as safe as humans can make it," said State Rep. Mike Denham.  "And, I want to thank everyone who came to help make this happen."

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