Residents, officials get LOOW update

Health Department is cataloging studies

By Nancy A. Fischer


LEWISTON - After more than 60 years, the debate continues over radioactive waste stored at the Lake Ontario Ordance Works. Part of the 7,500-acre site was once the dump for highly radioactive waste from the Manhattan Project.

The Niagara County Department of Health presented its continuing progress report on the LOOW project to Lewiston and Porter residents and public officials on Wednesday.

Daniel J. Stapleton, public health director for Niagara County, said the department's project, funded by federal, state and local dollars, is not about plans for any cleanup, but rather a way to catalog via computer all the studies that have been done into one plan.

"We are trying to respond to citizens and see all the uses of the site over the many decades. We will see what studies have been duplicated and if there are gaps, then see where to go," Stapleton said.

Dr. Marvin Resnikoff, a nuclear physicist and international consultant on radioactive waste, reviewed the data for the audience.

"The levels on the site are not high, but I'm going to say that they are above regulatory limits," he said.

Resnikoff said the threshold for allowable radiation continued to decrease over the years.

However, he said the Environmental Protection Agency is using "almost the same standards as if [the site] was an operating nuclear reactor," and said cleanup should be using different standards.

He pointed to high levels of radiation on four sites adjacent to the Niagara Falls Storage Site that should be remediated and also said a 1,500-foot section of the retaining canal from Lutts Road to Four Mile

Creek should be scraped and remediated.

"Will [the contaminant] migrate from the ditch to the creek to the lake? Likely," said Resnikoff.

He said that type of cleanup could cost tens of billions of dollars.

However Judith Leithner, project coordinator for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, disagreed, saying the numbers were correct, but nowhere near the limits requiring action.

She said the Corps of Engineers is planning to present its own study to the public in July.

The compilation of studies and maps in the LOOW project is expected to be available to the public on the Internet in September, said project coordinator Scott King.

Stapleton said it is hoped that cancer cluster studies will be added to the data in 2008.


Copyright 2007 The Buffalo News