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Maxey Flats Nuclear Disposal

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Initial remedial phase cap on Maxey Flats Nuclear Disposal site.

Additional Resources
Site Summary Profile
EPA ID: KYD980729107
Location: Hillsboro, Fleming County, KY
Lat/Long: 38.260800, -083.569200
Congressional District: 4
NPL Status: Proposed: 10/15/84; Final: 06/10/86
Affected Media: Ground water, Leachate, Sediment, Soil, Surface Water
Cleanup Status: Early Action Initiated/Completed and Construction Underway - Physical cleanup activities have started.
Human Exposure Under Control: Yes
Groundwater Migration Under Control: Yes
Sitewide Ready for Anticipated Use: No
Site Reuse/Redevelopment: Not in reuse
Site Manager: Pam Scully (scully.pam@epa.gov)


Current Site Status

The Maxey Flats Nuclear Disposal site accepted radioactive waste from 1963 until 1977. EPA placed the site on the National Priorities List (NPL) in 1986 because of contaminated soil, surface water and ground water resulting from facility operations. EPA and several potentially responsible parties (PRPs), including the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection (KDEP), have investigated site conditions and taken steps to clean up the site in order to protect people and the environment from contamination. Site contamination does not threaten people living and working near the site. Residents and businesses now use the public water system for drinking purposes. By continuing to monitor ground water and surface water and undertaking Five-Year Reviews.

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Site Location and Background

The 900-acre site is located near Hillsboro in Fleming County, Kentucky. Over half of the site is a forested buffer area that prevents development near the facility. The site is fenced and access to the area is controlled. More than 300 people live within five miles of the site. More than 120 wells and 25 springs are located within five miles of the site. The site is currently not used.

From 1963 to 1977, the Commonwealth of Kentucky, under federal authority, licensed private operators to dispose of low-level radioactive wastes from military ships and facilities, hospitals, universities and corporations in landfill facilities at the site. Operators disposed an estimated five million cubic feet of material in landfill disposal trenches.

Workers capped landfill disposal trenches with soil. Water collected in the trenches and leached unstable radioactive material into the surrounding environment. The trenches were located in a fenced 40-acre portion of the site known as the Restricted Area. The area also included waste storage buildings, an evaporator facility, and pipes containing plutonium and uranium. In 1986, EPA listed the site on the NPL.

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Threats and Contaminants

Site investigations identified contamination in soil, surface water and ground water that could potentially harm people in the area. Soil and ground water contamination resulted from waste disposal activities at the site. Contaminants of concern include heavy metals, radioactive compounds such as tritium, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and pesticides. Cleanup actions have contained site contaminants and site contamination does not threaten people living and working near the site. Contaminated surface water does not affect residents living next to the site since they use the public water system or deep wells for drinking water.

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Investigation and Cleanup Responsibility / Oversight

The Commonwealth of Kentucky and other site PRPs (including the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Defense) initially led site investigation and cleanup activities, with oversight provided by EPA. KDEP is conducting ongoing operation and maintenance activities and oversight of the site’s landfill cap.

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Site Cleanup Plan

In 1991, EPA issued a cleanup plan (Record of Decision, or ROD) for the site. The plan included the following activities:

Summaries of site cleanup approaches are also available online in key site cleanup documents, including the ROD and Five-Year Reviews.

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Cleanup Progress

To address immediate concerns, EPA solidified 286,000 gallons of leachate leaking from metal tanks. Leachate is water that collects contaminants as it passes through contaminated material. EPA disposed of the solidified leachate blocks in an underground on-site trench and installed a temporary, aboveground, plastic liner to prevent rain seeping into the site’s waste trenches.

Cleanup began in 1996. Site PRPs removed several hundred thousand gallons of radioactive, contaminated leachate from the landfill and solidified and disposed of it in reinforced concrete bunkers on site.

The PRPs completed construction of the interim cap in 2003. This innovative cleanup approach allows for easier repairs as landfill wastes settle, with a final cap scheduled for installation in 35 to 100 years. With the wastes having settled more rapidly than anticipated, EPA is now evaluating whether installation of the final cap could take place sooner.

A homeland security grant funded the installation of a security system for the facility.

The site’s second Five-Year Review, completed in 2007, found that the cleanup will protect people and the environment over the long term once completed. In the short term, cleanup actions to date protect people from site contamination.

Summaries of cleanup activities are also available in Five-Year Reviews online.

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Enforcement Activities

EPA negotiated legal agreements with site PRPs to investigate and clean up the site. The PRPs continue to fund site cleanup activities, monitoring and oversight costs.

RODs and Five-Year Reviews online provide information on specific legal agreements for the site.

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Community Involvement

EPA has worked with the community and its state partner to develop a long-term cleanup plan for the site, reflecting the Agency’s commitment to safe, healthy communities and environmental protection. Community engagement and public outreach are core components of EPA program activities.

EPA has conducted a range of community involvement activities to solicit community input and to ensure that the public remains informed about site activities throughout the cleanup process. Outreach efforts have included public notices, interviews, fact sheets and annual open houses at the site.

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Future Work

Following construction of the site’s final cap, KDEP will take care of operation and maintenance activities at the site.

Ground water and surface water monitoring are ongoing.

EPA completed the site’s last Five-Year Review in 2007 and plans to complete the next Five-Year Review in 2012.

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Additional Information

EPA keeps additional site documents and information in a site information repository at the location below. EPA also posts site documents, when available, on EPA’s CERCLIS Site Profile page. For documents not available on the website, please contact the Region 4 Freedom of Information Office.

Site Repository

Fleming County Public Library
303 S. Main Cross Street
Flemingsburg, KY 41041

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