Maxey Flats

A surface monument tells visitors to the Maxey Flats Nuclear Disposal Site to not dig due radioactive waste being buried below.

HILLSBORO -- Construction on the final cap of the Maxey Flats nuclear disposal site in Fleming County has been substantially completed.

According to Scott Wilburn, who works with the Kentucky Environmental Cabinet, "substantial completion" is a term used when a site has been completed, but a few minor details remain.

Wilburn said there will be a ceremony some time in the spring to mark the official completion of the project.

Those visiting the site can see a difference. The cap and geo-synthetic liners are now covered with grass and vegetation.

"Most people are surprised when they come out here and see how clean it is," Jeff Webb said. Webb also works with the Kentucky Environmental Cabinet. "We have grass, vegetation and wildlife."

"The only thing we haven't seen yet, that we want to, is a bear," Wilburn added.

Surface monuments telling where the waste is located have also been placed around the site in order to keep people from digging.

"So, if in 100 years, the federal government has collapsed and no one knows anything about Maxey Flats, someone goes to dig, they will know that there is nuclear waste at this site and they won't dig there," Wilburn said.

Maxey Flats was operational as a site to dump low-level nuclear waste between 1962 and 1977, according to Scott Wilburn, who works with the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection.

The site is considered non-reclaimable and will have to be monitored and maintained in perpetuity.

According to Webb, maintenance will continue on the cap well after completion.

"We have to keep up maintenance and inspections on the site," Webb said. "Drainage is probably the biggest problem, so we'll have to keep an eye on the water."

During a public meeting in February 2015, Jeff Garrison of The Walker Company said the top of the cap will be a vegetative cap, covered in grass, instead of the tar-like interim cap that sat atop the former low-level nuclear waste dumping ground.

Mark Day, designer of the final cap, told the crowd that cap will look somewhat like a chicken coop design. It will allow for water drainage mostly on the eastern side of the property, with some on the south side and a small amount on the west side.

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"We want to keep water from getting into the layers," Day said. "This cap will allow for the water to get where it needs to go."

Wilburn said the site contains about 4.7 million cubic feet of low-level waste. That waste began leaking out into the land in the 1970s, prompting it to be shut down and contained.

In 1978, Kentucky officials purchased the property and in 1991, approved stabilization efforts. Between 1996 and 2003, settling parties, who were considered to be responsible for the dumping of the waste, helped pay for efforts to contain the waste.

Wilburn said the cap will be permanent and will also include water control features.

Wilburn also said several options for the site have been considered, but nothing is set in stone.

"We want something educational," Wilburn said. "We've considered a lot of options, but that's something will just have to continue working on.

Anyone interested in gaining more information about the cap, or taking a tour of the facility, can contact the site at 606-784-8680.

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