Kentucky Regulators Agree Illegal Radioactive Waste Should Stay In Blue Ridge Landfill

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Radioactive waste illegally dumped in an Estill County landfill will likely stay in the ground after state regulators approved a corrective action plan last week.

Rregulators agreed with operators of the Blue Ridge Landfill that keeping the radioactive waste in the ground is the best way to protect human health and the environment. And digging up the material poses unnecessary health risks to workers and residents. It would also cause blowing dust, foul smells and increased traffic.

“The Cabinet carefully considered all of the responses to the [Corrective Action Plan] and truly believes that this alternative is the best way forward,” Energy and Environment Cabinet spokesman John Mura said.

But that may be against the will of locals. The majority of residents who made public comments prefer the landfill remove the waste.

“The long-term health and environmental impact of that material is unknown and the only way to be sure is to have that material removed,” Craig Williams of the Kentucky Environmental Foundation said.

State regulators say the plan will include permanent land use restrictions and groundwater monitoring that will last at least until 2066.

But a risk assessment found the radioactive waste will be around a lot longer than the current landfill liner, which has a service half-life of less than 450 years.

In August 2015,  a convoy of trucks carrying a concentrated form of this waste traveled from northern West Virginia to Irvine, Kentucky in Estill County.

The trucks that arrived in Irvine last summer left more than 400 tons of low-level radioactive waste in a facility that was not engineered or permitted to accept that sort of material.

Read more reporting from the Ohio Valley ReSource on the radioative waste in Estill County here and here.