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Crews Begin Final Cap For Maxey Flats

Cody Evans, The Ledger Independent

Crews constructing the final cap on Maxey Flats began clearing the area recently in order to begin construction on the cap itself.

According to Jeff Webb, with the Kentucky Environmental Cabinet, The Walker Company has been clearing buffer zones in order to gain access to materials, such as dirt and rocks, that will be needed to complete the work on the final cap, which will be a geo-synthetic liner.

“We wanted to use as much material from this land as possible,” Webb said. “In about a week, though, the real work begins. The geo-synthetic material will start being delivered and (TWC) can begin the actual construction.”

During a tour of the facility, Webb said construction crews created a stretch of land called Haul Road, where crews can carry materials around the 1,000 acres of land without having to leave the area, drive on the main road and reenter.

“This way we don’t have a lot of large vehicles on the main roadways,” Scott Wilburn, who also works with the Kentucky Environmental Cabinet, said. “So far, we haven’t had any issues with traffic and haven’t had to close off any roads.”

According to Wilburn, crews are also working to make the site more environmentally friendly by removing electrical lines and replacing them with solar panels. This has already been done for the sampling stations.

“We’re trying to go green,” he said. “We have a few lines to remove, but most of our sampling stations already have the solar panels. And, removing the poles help our construction crews too, because it’s difficult for them to get around the poles with such large equipment.”

During a public meeting in Feburary, Jeff Garrison, of The Walker Company said the top of the 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 the 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."

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 pay for efforts to contain the waste.

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.

“That’s something we can’t really discuss yet,” Wilburn said. “But, we are looking into several options for what could be done with the facility once construction is completed.”

The cap is expected to be completed by Fall 2016. Anyone interested in gaining more information about the cap, or take a tour of the facility, can contact the site at 606-784-8680.

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