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Final Cap Planned on Maxey Flats Site

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Cody Evans, The Ledger Independent
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The final cap on the Maxey Flats project is expected to be completed by October 2016, officials told a large crowd gathered at the US National Guard Armory in Morehead, Tuesday (Feb. 3).

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.

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 to pay for efforts to contain the waste.

Since then, a 58-acre interim cap has been completed and burial operations of waste have commenced. Officials have also purchased 550 acres of buffer zones in order to maintain any possible run off, according to Wilburn.

Jeff Garrison of The Walker Company, which will be completing the project, said the final cap will be a vegetative cap, covered in grass, instead of the tar-like interim cap that currently sits 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 south side and a small amount on the west side.

"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."

Jeff Webb, with the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection, said once the cap has been completed, there will be a 100-year monitoring period during which the site will be closely controlled.

"It will always be monitored," Webb said. "But, there is a 100 year obligation to control the site to ensure there are no problems."

Wilburn said the cap will be permanent and will also include water control features and surface monuments that identify concerns and locations of waste.

"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.

Webb said he is unsure what will become of the property once it has been secured, but officials are looking into options.

"Once the cap has been completed on the ground, we have deed restrictions on what we can do with the land," he said. "One of the things I might like to see happen is for this to become a research facility."

One individual present at the meeting showed concern that the officials were being too optimistic about the cap maintaining the waste.

"How do you know this will work?" Lucien Royse, a Fleming County landowner asked. "Have you done any tests to prove and to guarantee this will work?"

Day told Royse he is confident that the cap will work because he has designed several caps, some for larger sites than Maxey Flats.

"I won't guarantee this will work," Day said. "There is never any guarantee. However, I can tell you that I've done this for several years, for some sites much larger than this one. I'm confident that this will work."

Others present at the meeting, such as Fleming County Judge-Executive Larry Foxworthy, seemed confident in the containment.

"I'm not a proponent of nuclear waste sites," Foxworthy said. "But, it is here and we're going to have to deal with that. The progress that has been made at this site is much better than it was before this began. We're fortunate to have people like this who care about this site and will monitor it."

Wilburn said the site is open to the public. Anyone interested in taking a tour to see what is happening with the project can contact the Maxey Flats office at 606-783-8680.

The Ledger Independent is online at: http://www.maysville-online.com