Editorial Page/Letters to the Editor
The Washington Post
1150 15th St, NW
Washington, DC  20071
                                                                May 4, 2000
Dear Editor:

The May 1 letter from Lt. General Joe Ballard claiming The Post "unfairly
portrayed" the cleanup being done by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at
the Linde/Praxair site is an obfuscation that ignores the pertinent facts.

First, Ballard claims "the site will be decontaminated to levels at or
below Nuclear Regulatory Commission standards."  What he fails to mention
is that the NRC rule being applied by the Corps at Linde is not an
"applicable or appropriate and relevant requirement" (ARAR) under CERCLA
for this site.  

Instead, this recent NRC regulation, called the Uranium Recovery Facilities
Rule [69 FR 17506, April 12, 1999], was developed specifically as a
loophole for a few currently operating western uranium mills which claimed
they could not meet the NRC's general License Termination Rule, previously
adopted on July 21, 1997 [at 62 FR 39058].  Prior to its taking effect, the
local public interest group F.A.C.T.S. (For A Clean Tonawanda Site) Inc.
commented on the weak provisions of the Uranium Recovery rule, maintaining
that it could not be applied to FUSRAP sites because no impact assessment
had been done for these sites.  NRC agreed that this rule was not
applicable to FUSRAP sites.

In its January 12, 2000 letter to the Corps, EPA takes the same position,
stating "[w]e do not recognize the 15 pCi/g radium level is an ARAR, and
therefore do not accept that the technique of benchmarking is applicable in
this circumstance [the Linde site]."  The "technique of benchmarking" that
EPA refers to is the Uranium Recovery rule.

Second, the claim that radioactivity contained in Building 30 debris sent
to a Buttonwillow, CA landfill was at RCRA-acceptable levels is refuted by
data in the Corps' (previously the Energy Department's) "EE/CA for Building
30 at Praxair, February 1998" on pages 8-10:
  ..."Dust samples collected from the rafters, vent fan, and overhead crane
  contained U-238 concentrations ranging from 110 to 4,100 picocuries per
  gram (pCi/g), Ra-226 ranging from 27 to 2,200 pCi/g, and Th-230 ranging
  from 7.1 to 3,800 pCi/g. ...  The 1996 limited survey on the building
  exterior found one location (on the east wall) above guidelines.  This
  area was measured at 7,800 dpm/100cm2.  ...  Results from surveys
  conducted inside Building 30 indicate that the building contains
  sufficient residual radioactivity to require radiological controls.

These are far from "low levels".  Levels of uranium above 170 pCi/g U-238
requires licensure as "source material" by NY State under the Atomic Energy

Lastly, it is a violation of longstanding NRC rules to employ dilution as a
means of achieving concentration limits -- by either averaging over clean
or cleaner volumes (as USACE has proposed at Linde/Praxair) or the physical
blending down of higher concentrations with cleaner material.  

Based on actual waste volumes removed in completed operations at other
Tonawanda Site properties compared to Energy Department figures, it is
appears that the Corps has utilized soil blending, which to a certain
extent is unavoidable in large earth moving operations.  This is why it is
essential that before any digging occurs the proper cleanup levels and
removal methods be established, and also why F.A.C.T.S. had sought
(unsuccessfully) a temporary restraining order when it brought suit over
the 1998 Corps' Ashland properties cleanup decision.


James Rauch
F.A.C.T.S. (For A Clean Tonawanda Site), Inc.