NucNews: Radioactive groundwater skyrocketing in Denver 9/16/98

Peace through Reason (
Thu, 17 Sep 1998 09:14:07 -0400

Denver Post Online, September 16, 1998

EPA cleanup of Shattuck not working, city claims

              By Mark Eddy
              Denver Post Environment Writer 

              Sept. 16 - Levels of radioactivity in groundwater flowing
              from beneath the Shattuck Superfund site have
              skyrocketed in the last four years, tests conducted by the
              city of Denver show.

              "Clearly, the EPA remedy at the Shattuck site is not
              working,'' said Theresa Donahue, manager of Denver's
              Department of Environmental Health. Ten wells were
              tested on the Overland Golf Course, just west of the
              radioactive waste dump at 1805 S. Bannock. Two of the
              worst wells are within a half-mile of the South Platte
              River and "significantly'' violate standards set by the
              EPA, Donahue said. Standards exceeded

              Uranium concentrations at one well have increased by 75
              times since 1994 and all 10 had contamination levels that
              exceeded EPA's cleanup standards for Shattuck.

              EPA, which along with the state health department
              ordered in 1992 that 50,000 cubic yards of soil - enough
              to cover a football field 30 feet deep - contaminated with
              radioactive uranium and radium and heavy metals be
              buried at the site at 1805 S. Bannock St., confirmed that
              its tests also showed increases in radioactivity. But, that
              doesn't mean the controversial cleanup, which should be
              completed by the end of the month, isn't working, said Jim
              Hanley, EPA's project manager for Shattuck.

              "I don't think that anyone expected that the remedy would
              be completely effective on Day One. I expect that most
              people thought that the contamination migration away
              from the waste would attenuate over time and it would
              take a number of years before it actually goes down,''
              Hanley said. The city has jumped the gun with its claims
              that the cleanup is a failure, he said. "I'm sort of surprised
              at the city's interpretation here. I don't think there's any
              requirement for us to be in (compliance) immediately.''

              Experts at the Colorado Department of Public Health and
              Environment haven't examined the data yet, but they are
              trying to figure out "if we have an issue out there,'' said
              Howard Roitman, director of the Hazardous Materials
              and Waste Management Division.

              "We're looking seriously at the issue. But right now based
              just on what Denver's put out, we can't give an assessment
              on it - but we are working on it,'' he said. The soil was
              contaminated during operations at the 6-acre site from the
              1920s through the 1980s when several companies
              processed uranium, radium and vanadium. The Shattuck
              Chemical Co. was the last to operate at the site and is
              responsible for the cleanup. 

              The city as well as several neighborhood groups fought
              the EPA's decision to mix the contaminated soil with
              flyash and entomb it in a monolith on the site - which is 4
              miles from Downtown Denver, a block from houses and
              just two blocks from the busy South Broadway business
              district. The city and neighbors wanted it moved to a
              remote, federally licensed facility in Utah and the EPA
              originally agreed, but officials at the agency reversed
              their decision and ordered the soil buried on-site. Soil
              from nine other similar sites in Denver was all moved to

              The test results released Tuesday are a followup to those
              conducted earlier this summer when the city discovered
              that a storm sewer pipe draining into the South Platte
              River was contaminated with heavy metals, just as it was
              before the Shattuck site was cleaned up. EPA hasn't
              monitored groundwater, which isn't used for drinking
              water, or outflow from the storm sewer pipe since 1994
              and was unaware of the contamination until the city sent
              the agency initial findings this summer, the agency

              After the city's tests showed heavy metals are still leaking
              into the storm sewer, Denver and the EPA took samples
              and tested for heavy metals and radioactivity in both the
              storm sewer and monitoring wells on the golf course.
              Although heavy metals are leaking into the river,
              radioactivity in the storm pipe is within federal standards,
              the tests show.

              The city hopes to force the EPA into a complete
              evaluation of possible groundwater contamination and to
              ultimately move the contaminated soil out of Denver. The
              latest tests show again that the EPA botched the cleanup,
              Donahue said. own tests, Hanley said. 

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