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EPA Completes Temporary Cleanup Measures at Nuclear Metals Superfund Site

Release Date: 05/29/2003
Contact Information: Alice Kaufman, EPA Community Affairs, 617-918-1064

BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced it has completed a temporary cleanup at the Nuclear Metals Superfund Site in Concord, Massachusetts. During this initial phase of cleanup, which cost $1.5 million, EPA installed two temporary covers over contaminated areas of the site and disposed of 23 drums and other containers contaminated with beryllium, lead, and radioactive material weighing a total of 15.5 tons.

Since 2000, EPA has conducted a preliminary assessment and site investigation (PA/SI) of two areas suspected of having contaminated soils, buried drums and other hazardous debris. The assessment and investigation involved sampling and analyzing surface and subsurface soils; performing geophysical surveys using ground penetrating radar technology to locate buried drums and other debris; doing pit excavations to find and sample the buried drums and other debris, and finally sampling the perimeter soils of the contaminated areas to ensure no one walking or living near the site received adverse exposure. EPA conducted continuous radiation monitoring throughout the work to ensure the safety of cleanup personnel.

The PA/SI was conducted at two areas on the 46-acre site: One area abuts the holding basin of the site and the other area is the site of a former landfill. The soils in both areas were sampled for radionuclides, metals, volatile and semivolatile organic compounds. Based on the finding of the PA/SI and other sampling conducted by EPA, the focus of the temporary measures was to reduce risks associated with the holding basin and the old landfill areas of the site.

Holding Basin Area

EPA constructed a polyethylene liner over the former holding basin, which contains soils that are contaminated with depleted uranium and other hazardous substances. This temporary measure will prevent the airborne migration of contaminated soils and dust, and prevent rain and snow from seeping through the contaminated soils into the groundwater. EPA also built a culvert to divert excess water from the holding basin to the adjacent water recharge pond on the site.

As part of the removal activities, EPA disposed of three drums containing beryllium that had been excavated from the area between the holding basin and the water recharge pond during the performance of the PA/SI. These drums were disposed at an EPA-approval disposal facility.

Former Landfill
To prevent direct contact with beryllium, lead, arsenic and antimony in soils, EPA installed a permanent fence around the landfill and constructed a temporary polyethylene cover over the former landfill at the site. Buried drums, laboratory equipment, and other debris have been found in the landfill. Removal of a small portion of the buried debris was necessary in order to properly construct the temporary cover. EPA disposed of the debris, which contained beryllium, lead, and radioactive contamination, at an EPA-approved disposal facility.

Site Background
From 1958 to the present, the site was used by various operators as a specialized research and metal manufacturing facility which was licensed to possess low-level radioactive substances. Site operators used depleted uranium (DU), beryllium and other hazardous substances at the site. From 1958 - 1985, DU-contaminated wastes were disposed of in an unlined holding basin. EPA has also identified other areas that were used to dispose of manufacturing wastes, building materials, and laboratory equipment. The current site owner/operator, Starmet (formerly Nuclear Metals, Inc.) manufactured depleted uranium munitions for the U.S. Army at the site from the 1970's until 1999.

The Nuclear Metals Inc. site was added to the National Priority List (NPL) in June 2001, making it a Superfund site. The NPL is EPA's list of the country's most serious hazardous waste sites identified for possible long-term cleanup. The Superfund program makes public funds available to clean up listed toxic waste sites when private financing is unavailable.