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LOOW: Facts and Myths

The Niagara Gazette‘s Dan Miner wrote a column on Friday about the Lake Ontario Ordnance Works Restoration Advisory Board (RAB), which the US Army Corps of Engineers is trying to dissolve. Miner got a lot of things wrong—some minor, some major.

To wit:

Bill Boeck is not a chemist; Walter Garrow has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. Both were hand-selected for this incarnation of the RAB and are directly associated with Niagara University and/or the contracting company that built the Niagara Falls Storage Site (NFSS) radiological “containment structure.”

The original and most previous RAB was disbanded immediately after an US Army officer grabbed and shoved a member of the public at a RAB meeting on March 13, 2002. A police report is on file.

The Lake Ontario Ordnance Works (or LOOW site—see the US Army Corps of Engineers map to the left) is actually a 7,500-acre parcel of properties that were allegedly used for TNT production during only a nine-month period of the Second World War in 1942-1943. This site did not produce TNT for the “nation’s armed forces during and after World War II.” The 191-acre piece of real estate being mentioned here in this article is formally called the Niagara Falls Storage Site (NFSS) and is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Energy.

No silo is associated, or ever was, with the current subsurface (read: within watertable) “containment structure” burial. The basements of old military buildings on site are now being used to store these high-level radioactive materials and are considered to constitute the NFSS “interim containment structure.” At the time this project was explained to the public more than two decades ago, it was stated that this “temporary solution” was to be an “interim measure.” The silo being mentioned in this article is where the Radium-226 (between 1/3 and 1/2 of the world’s supply) was previously stored above ground for 40 years. It has since been demolished (1980s), and that structure was also buried with the remaining wastes that were known as being scattered around the LOOW site during that time frame.

Plutonium, an extremely dangerous radioactive element created for the most part in a fission reactor, was found by Environment Canada and was reported as being detected in the mouth of the Niagara River at Youngstown, New York. It can be easily assumed to have leached/traveled/migrated through the ditches and groundwater from the LOOW site only a couple of miles away. No testing has ever been conducted to find the source and origin of this plutonium. In fact, it was never even admitted that plutonium had even been on this site until the Rochester Human Radiation Experiments (HREX) lab wastes (see The Plutonium Files by Eileen Welsome) Dell-Random House, 1999) were mentioned as being located there at Lewiston-Porter in a series of Artvoice articles (“The Bomb That Fell on Niagara” by G. Kelly, L. Ricciuti, 2001-2002). The US Army Corps of Engineers found these particular HREX wastes buried at the legacy LOOW site in 2002-2003 after the series of articles was published. Other sources of plutonium, in addition to the HREX materials, have been identified as being on the LOOW site.

The suggestion that the site presents “no imminent health risks” is misleading. There has never been a “safe condition” at this site. The cavalier waste disposal practices of the previous military “caretakers” of the LOOW led to leaks and that spread radioactive materials into the surrounding landscape during the entire time (decades) that it has been located there. It is still leaking. “Abatement” is not removal.

No mention is made by either Miner or the RAB committee members of the recent change to federal Law (2003’s House Resolution 2754) that will allow the radium-226 and other slurried radioactive elements to remain buried in this landscape and within the water table forever.

  • Do you have access to the Canadian report of radiation deteced at the mouth of the Niagara River ?