Nuclear Metals site in Massachusetts is focus of major investigation

Boston, MA— The investigation of the Nuclear Metals Inc. Superfund site in Concord, Massachusetts continues. Contractors have completed excavating more than 50 55-gallon drums which had been buried in an area adjacent to the cooling water pond, located behind the former Starmet facility.

Previous investigations found the drum disposal area. To more thoroughly characterize the contents of the drums and determine the extent of contamination in the soil surrounding them, the drums have been excavated and stockpiled on-site in secure containers. The contents of the drums have been sampled and the samples are currently being analyzed with results expected in mid-January 2005. The excavated area and soil surrounding the drums was also sampled and the excavation area has been backfilled. Once the contents of the drums are confirmed, an evaluation of disposal options will be performed.

The drum disposal area is one of 17 areas of investigation on the 48-acre site being investigated by the consultant de maximis, inc. as part of a more extensive investigation, called a Remedial Investigation, which has been underway at the site since October 2004. Investigatory work is expected to continue through fall 2005.

The purpose of the Remedial Investigation is to gather the data necessary to determine the sources, nature and extent of all contamination at the site; identify how the contamination is migrating; and evaluate potential public health and environmental risks. The scope of the investigation includes:

•Locating and characterizing the contents of buried drums and metal debris at the site.

•Investigating and characterizing the make-up of site septic tanks and leach fields, storm drains, transformer areas and an underground storage tank area.

•Investigating site soils, sediment, surface water, groundwater, wetlands and bog.

•Characterizing the content of residual soil contamination associated with the former holding basin; and

•Characterizing and surveying the site buildings.

As part of the investigation to date, de maximis, inc. and its’ subcontractors have drilled 30 monitoring wells and 72 soil borings; dug 21 test pits; collected 164 surface soil samples, 240 sub-surface soil samples from the soil borings, and 47 sub-surface soil samples from the test pits; collected 77 sediment samples and 40 surface water samples; and, collected 47 groundwater samples.

The information gathered in the Remedial Investigation phase of the project will be used to define the extent of site-related human health and ecological risks and to conduct a Feasibility Study. The Feasibility Study evaluates various cleanup alternatives for all the areas of the site that present an unacceptable risk to either human health or the environment.

A dedicated website exists for the Nuclear Metals, Inc. site where the progress of the investigation can be followed. This dedicated website is www.nmisite.org. Additional information can also be found at EPA’s website: www.epa.gov/ne/superfund/sites/nmi.

Concurrent with the field work being performed by de maximis, inc., the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection is working on procuring a contractor to remove the drums currently stored inside the building.

From 1958 to the present, the site was used by various operators as a specialized research and metal manufacturing facility licensed to possess low-level radioactive substances. Site operators used depleted uranium, beryllium and other hazardous substances at the site. From 1958 to 1985, wastes contaminated with depleted uranium were disposed of in an unlined holding basin. EPA has also identified other areas on the site that were used to dispose of manufacturing wastes, building materials and laboratory equipment.

The current site owner/operator, Starmet (formerly Nuclear Metals, Inc.), manufactured depleted uranium munitions for the U.S. Army at the site from the 1970s until 1999. In 2002, EPA spent over $1 million on a short-term cleanup called a time-critical removal action, to conduct test pits and soil sampling in the “old landfill” area of the site, and to install a permanent fence around the old landfill and temporary covers over the holding basin and old landfill. In 2003, EPA entered into an agreement with the U.S. Army, the U.S. Department of Energy, Whittaker Corp., MONY Life Insurance Co. and Textron Inc. to conduct extensive studies at the site to develop cleanup options. The Nuclear Metals Inc. site was added to the National Priority List in June 2001, making it a Superfund site. The EPA list is made up of the country’s most serious hazardous waste sites identified for possible long-term cleanup.


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