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Sources: Steve Galitzer, 785-532-5856, galitz@k-state.edu;
and Bruce Shubert, 785-532-6226, shubert@k-state.edu
News release prepared by: Beth Bohn, 785-532-2535, bbohn@k-state.edu

Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2010

CLEAN-UP WORK TO BEGIN AT FORMER UNIVERSITY RESEARCH WASTE LANDFILL

MANHATTAN -- Work cleaning up an old research waste landfill on the Kansas State University campus will begin soon. The site was a burying ground for low-level radioactive waste and chemicals.

The Kansas Board of Regents has given approval to a remediation plan for the Old Chemical Waste Landfill, which is in a fenced-in area north of Kimball Avenue and to the west of K-State's grain science complex. The university's clean-up plan is being done in collaboration with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Environmental Protection Agency. A public notice about the project will be issued soon by the state Department of Health and Environment.

The project is estimated to cost $3.7 million and will be paid for from a combination of sponsored research overhead funds and bond funds, according to Bruce Shubert, K-State vice president for finance and administration.

The landfill was used by K-State from the mid-1960s to 1987. It was created with the approval of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and was a burying ground for tritium, carbon-14 and other short-lived radioactive elements. The university also disposed of some chemicals at the site from 1979 to 1983. The university has been monitoring the site since 1990 to ensure there are no problems with contamination to the community.

Steve Galitzer, director of the department of environmental health and safety at K-State, said burying such waste was a common practice for research universities at the time, and that K-State followed all government regulations on hazardous and radioactive waste disposal. Galitzer also said that by having its own site, the university was not disposing of radioactive waste and chemicals in the Riley County landfill.

"The times and regulations on handling of hazardous wastes have changed," Galitzer said. "K-State no longer buries such waste; all of it now goes to a treatment storage or disposal facility, as required by law."

Galitzer said the university has a detailed record of the radioactive waste that was buried at the site, along with a general idea of the chemical waste that was buried.

"It's time to get it cleaned up for good," Galitzer said. "We have spent about $250,000 a year since 1990 to monitor the site, with costs expected to escalate in the future."

The clean up will begin in October or November with groundwater remediation. Galitzer said monitoring, done several times a year for the past 20 years, has shown groundwater at the site does not go off campus.

"We have 31 monitoring wells in the area. We also conduct tests for above-ground radioactivity and have found none," Galitzer said. Vegetation in the area, including trees and shrubs, are also tested.

The remediation plan starts with building a 100-foot by 4-foot trench on university property to capture a plume of contaminated groundwater and then clean it with a treatment system. By July 2011 sampling of the landfill soil will start. Workers will begin digging up the landfill in January 2012, removing its contents, sorting and screening them, and then shipping them to the proper facility for disposal. Workers involved will wear hazardous materials suits, and signs will be placed on the site to inform the public of the project.

A final assessment of the remaining soil at the landfill, to ensure that it is clean according to KDHE and EPA standards, will be done by April 2013. The landfill will then be filled and the site restored.

Galitzer encourages anyone with questions about the site, the remediation plans or other concerns to contact him at 785-532-5856 or galitz@k-state.edu.