Schenectady County

Knolls cleanup delayed again

Erosion from late summer tropical storms Irene and Lee has forced a new approach to cleanup at the K

Erosion from late summer tropical storms Irene and Lee has forced a new approach to cleanup at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory site, delaying completion of the project, federal officials said.

The erosion happened on a hillside next to the work site, where an enclosure was to be built.

The erosion has affected the original plan and forced the contractor, URS Corp., to submit proposed alternate approaches. Those approaches are currently under review, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Energy said.

Despite the erosion, officials reported no further contamination off-site. Last year, the project was hampered by an accidental release of radioactive dust.

The proposed new approaches also mean there is no new estimate for completion of the cleanup at the former Separations Process Research Unit. An official declined to give even a rough estimate.

The cleanup is aimed at removing the remnants of the long-dormant site, which ran for less than three years and closed in 1953.

Among a series of incidents that beset the site included the accidental release of radioactive dust in September 2010 and the release in October 2010 of 630 gallons of dirty water into the Mohawk River.

In both incidents, officials have said, there was no risk to workers or the public, but they were still of concern to the federal energy officials.

A new subcontractor was brought in to take several key positions at the site in the wake of last year’s incidents.

Deactivation and demolition work, which led to the incidents, had been on hold since November 2010. Preparation work is under way to get that going again, after the Department of Energy and URS agreed to greater safeguards. These include an enclosure to be built around the demolition to capture any dust.

The new erosion affected the area where the foundation of the new enclosure would be built, officials said.

Now, preparation is also under way for another winter at the site.

When work does get going again, a state Department of Health air monitor will also be on site to provide independent air sampling.

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