MIKE FRICANO Staff writer
Section: CAPITAL REGION,  Page: B5

Date: Friday, January 18, 2002

Colonie Though pleased the government plans to remove all the contaminated materials from a site on Central Avenue, environmentalists criticized the plan Thursday, saying the Army Corps of Engineers' proposal fails to account for contamination that has migrated to other places.

Officials with the Arbor Hill Environmental Justice Corporation said that the Army Corps' plan does not take into account years' worth of soil being deposited further down the Patroon Creek. John Arnason, a scientist at the University at Albany, tested a soil sample near Rensselaer Lake behind the Colonie Little League fields and found uranium-238 as high as 300 picocuries per gram in the soil. That's nearly 10 times the level the Army Corps is using as an acceptable standard in cleaning up the former National Lead Industries site. ``We're convinced that with what we found ... there's a significant plume off site,'' said Aaron Mair of Arbor Hill Environmental Justice Corporation. Mair, who noted that children swim in the Patroon Creek, called for additional testing at the Hudson River and then for the government to add that area to the cleanup proposal.

Anne Rabe of the Citizens Environmental Council has criticized the proposal, saying the standards are not stringent enough. The Army Corps will only remove soils with lead levels at more than 35 picocuries per gram. She said that studies have shown ill-health effects from lower lead levels.

The Army Corps is currently in the midst of a more than $140 million cleanup that will eventually remove 75,000 cubic yards -- or a football field piled 47 feet high -- of radioactive and metal-tainted soils from the former National Lead Industries site.

Project Manager James T. Moore asked Mair to forward the research to Army Corps officials so that they can review it, along with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, and then meet to discuss the findings.

Meanwhile, removal of the soil is continuing, Moore said. So far, the Army Corps has removed more than 58,000 tons of material. In six months, a groundwater study is expected to be completed, which will give Army Corps officials additional information about off-site contamination, Moore said.

The former uranium processing site was closed in 1983 after officials found that its 16 smokestacks were spraying a Central Avenue neighborhood, near the intersection with Osborne Road, with uranium dust.

Originally, the Department of Energy planned to convert the site into a two-acre dump for 42,000 tons of dirt contaminated with mid- to low levels of depleted uranium-238, lead and thorium. The materials were used to produce armor-piercing artillery shells and aircraft parts for the federal government. Critics complained that the Department of Energy's 1995 plan would have stored materials above a culvert that feeds the Patroon Creek.