Army officials shared with a small group of Harford community residents last night plans to clean up contaminated soil at a site on the Bush River once used to process radioactive waste for deep-sea dumping.
Workers contracted by the Army are to remove about 11,000 cubic yards of soil and debris from the 3.1-acre site in the Edgewood area of the Aberdeen Proving Ground, officials say. The project is expected to cost about $2 million and take about six months to complete.
The processing site, called the RAD Yard by APG officials, was the East Coast collection point for the Army's radioactive medical and research waste in the 1950s and 1960s.
Before that, it was home to the Toxic Gas Yard, where mustard agent and other dangerous chemical weapons were stored until World War II.
The radioactive waste was boiled down and mixed with concrete in 55-gallon drums before it was loaded onto ships for deep-sea dumping, which was one of the approved disposal methods at the time, officials say. Left behind at the site is contamination including radioactive isotopes cesium-137 and cobalt-60, as well as arsenic - likely left over from vomiting agents such as lewisite.
Project manager Don Green said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires APG to remove the contaminated soil.
During the session Stan Bliden, of Churchville asked Green how radioactive waste remained on site if the material had been reprocessed and shipped away.
"Obviously, they weren't too careful," Green said.
Afterward, Bliden said his fears were allayed, but he wanted to hear more about the site's radioactive contamination.
"That concerns me more than anything else," Bliden said. "It's a little scary."
After testing for and removing unexploded ordnance down to 2 feet, workers will test and sort the soil. Dirt contaminated with radioactive waste will be shipped to Envirocare, a low-level radioactive waste handler in Utah, while arsenic-contaminated dirt will be taken to a hazardous waste disposal site.
Green said that cleanup of the RAD site would start after the destruction of the nearby mustard agent stockpile.