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Dealing With Toxic Waste

For decades, the old Satralloy plant in Jefferson County’s Cross Creek Township provided good jobs to a number of area residents. But when the plant was shut down many years ago, it left behind an large pile of waste, containing a substance called hexavalent chromium.

Among other toxic properties, hexavalent chromium can cause cancer, federal health agencies state.

In 2010, the OEPA ordered the old Satrallloy property be cleaned up.

Last week, local residents heard a presentation on the cleanup process from representatives of Cyprus Amax Minerals, Satralloy’s parent company, and Freeport-McMoRan, which purchased Cyprus Amax. Most of the work will be “conventional demolition,” a representative of the construction company hired for the project, said.

But what about the waste pile — which is approximately 50 acres in area, according to the OEPA?

Plans to deal with it are still being finalized, commented Barbara Nielson, of Freeport-McMoRan.

That situation is part of a lawsuit filed against Cyprus Amax last year by a company hired to conduct a feasibility study on cleaning up the Satralloy plant site. That firm insists Cyprus Amax plans to “encapsulate” the waste rather than remove it — though it needs to be emphasized the Cyprus Amax representative did not discuss any such plans last week.

How the hexavalent chromium-containing waste is handled is important. An OEPA report states some of the substance has entered Cross Creek — and has been found in fish tissue samples.

Jefferson County Commissioner Tom Gentile said last week that he opposes encapsulating the waste material. “There is no liner underneath to contain the problem,” he explained.

Clearly, state and, if necessary, federal officials should not permit use of shortcuts in dealing with the waste pile. At first glance, it would appear the responsible companies should be instructed to find some means of disposing of the material. Merely wrapping it up, in effect, for a future generation to deal with is not an appealing option.

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