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Contract awarded for future cleanup of Niagara County nuclear waste site

Lake Ontario Ordnance Works map
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded a $35 million contract to a New York City contractor that will plan, design, and manage construction for the removal of an interim containment structure on a radioactive waste storage site in Niagara County.

The Lake Ontario Ordnance Works, built in the 1940s, covers 2,500 acres in the towns of Lewiston and Porter. TNT was originally produced there for use in World War Two, but was later used for the nation’s atomic weapons program.

The contract with J.E. Architects/Engineers is for five years, during which the firm will complete designs and plans over multiple steps. The first will begin this fall, on a path toward eventually removing of the Interim Waste Containment Structure.

“It contains residues left from early atomic energy and weapons program activities, contains residues leftover from uranium processing,” said Stephen Buechi, chief of the Environmental Project Management Section for the Army Corps of Engineers. “And some of those residues contain elevated levels of radium, which still which generate radon gas.”

Cleanup of waste itself is a long way from starting. Buechi explained that infrastructural work must first be done to set up the later cleanup.

“For example, improving roads on the site bringing, and installing utilities, or additional utilities, for the waste processing plants, the radar control structure and treatment, then actually constructing those facilities,” he said. “That will enable us to start the actual remediation and conduct that safely.”

The site is blamed for an elevated number of cancer cases. Late last month, current and former area residents renewed their complaints and called on the federal government to provide the same health care and aid given to victims of the nearby Love Canal environmental disaster.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.