Thursday, January 23, 2014

Companies behaving badly: Chicago radioactive waste facility shutting down amid safety scandal / Firm held liable for uranium cleanup

Chicago radioactive waste facility shutting down amid safety scandal

Published time: November 27, 2013 17:50
A radioactive waste disposal facility near a small residential neighborhood outside Chicago was found guilty of multiple, potentially hazardous violations and will reportedly be shut down.
Complaints waged by the likes of both local and federal regulators allege that Tinley Park, Illinois’ ADCO Services, Inc. inappropriately stored potentially hazardous waste for several years longer that they were supposed to, and time and time again they were warned by officials for their seemingly rampant disregard of the rules.

According to Chicago’s WLS-TV, ADCO racked up 70 violations and at least $212,400 in fines over the course of 20 years due to an array of safety and financial snafus that had the potential of becoming possibly catastrophic.

“ADCO is supposed to store radioactive waste for less than 180 days, but instead kept it there for years -- some more than a decade,” investigative journalist Chuck Goudie reported for the ABC affiliate this week. WLS-TV now reports that Tinley Park, Illinois’ ADCO Service, Inc. is being shut down, but an end to the business may be too little, too late.

The company advertises on their website that they have been in the business of radioactive and hazardous waste disposal since 1965, but that lengthy tenure in the Chicago suburb of Tinley Park — population 57,000 — has been hardly without incident. Goudie recently investigated the company’s history, and in the process he turned up an array of serious, potentially catastrophic violations, nearly all of which ended up below the radar of the local media for ages up until now.

One resident of Tinley Park told Goudie that he had no idea what was happening at the ADCO facility in his neighborhood, and he’s likely not the only one unaware that the company has been silently disposing of supposedly low-level radioactive waste there for decades. Presumably even less likely then would be finding a Tinley Park resident who has lived quietly alongside such facility, knowingly aware that the building has been the site of several violations, the likes of which have prompted reprimands from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s federal officials.

According to Goudie, ADCO takes in radioactive byproducts from hundreds of local producers each year, collecting the materials and then transporting it to an off-site dump or other final resting place. Between the time of collection and the eventual disposal, the Tinley Park facility could contain any which type of waste product, ranging from self-luminous exit signs and radioactive animal carcasses, to smoke detectors and hazardous waste disposed of by doctors. ADCO hasn’t always abided by the rules with regards to storage such materials, though, and has ended up in hot water because of it.

"They were storing the waste longer than they should have been, they were accepting waste when they shouldn't have been,” Michael Klebe of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency told WLS.
Klebe told reporters that the IEMA attempted to bring ADCO “back to compliance” by going through a number of administrative procedures, but that in his opinion there was never any imminent public safety threat or concern. State officials also tell the network that “an immediate threat to public health or safety” was never present, but the violations uncovered by their reporters suggest ADCO Services was far from par with respect to playing by the rules.

After speaking with Klebe, Goudie and company collected state records through Freedom of Information Act requests which showed the full scope of ADCO’s violations.

In 2004, ADCO overlooked the training requirement for its housekeeping staff, allowing uninformed janitors to work around radioactive material. In 2007, contaminated items were shipped to a scrap yard in Cicero, where the radiation monitor was tripped. In 2008, the facility even reported a radioactive contamination incident and still kept its license. In 2011, one of the company's managers pleaded guilty to stealing scrap metal from the business and selling it,” Goudie reported. “So, despite 70 violations and more than $200,000 in fines during 20 years, the state of Illinois allowed ADCO to operate with radioactive material.”

But according to RT’s own cyber-sleuthing, ADCO’s failure to abide by the rules didn’t stop just there.

RT has uncovered NRC documents from both 2005 and 2013 in which ADCO was alleged to have neglected to pay thousands of dollars’ worth of fees necessary to hold on to a materials license pursuant to the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. In 2005, for example, the

NRC ordered ADCO to pay more than $17,000 in late fees or else have their license immediately revoked, and as recently as September 11 of this year ADCO was again threatened with similar ramifications for being more than $20,000 behind payment.

Please read all the above story:

Firm held liable for uranium cleanup


FARMINGTON – The Navajo Nation is among those hoping a recent court decision will provide millions of dollars to clean up areas impacted by uranium mining and milling activities.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Allan Gropper decided earlier this month that Anadarko Petroleum Corp. is liable for billions of dollars in environmental cleanup costs, including uranium mines and mills that were once operated on the Navajo Nation by the Kerr-McGee Corp. Anadarko officials have indicated they will appeal.

Uranium mining started on tribal lands in 1944 to provide a source for atomic power. Over the years, that activity left more than 500 abandoned uranium mines, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Kerr-McGee started mining and milling uranium in Arizona’s Lukachukai Mountains in 1952 and eventually built a 77-acre uranium disposal cell in Shiprock, which the company operated from 1954 to 1963.

The company also operated numerous businesses that left a trail of contamination across the United States, including radioactive thorium in Illinois, rocket-fuel waste in Nevada, and creosote waste in the Midwest, Northeast and South.

The court decision, issued in the Southern District of New York, found that Anadarko and Kerr-McGee acted with “intent to hinder” certain creditors, including the Navajo Nation, when the company fraudulently conveyed assets to Tronox Inc. to evade its debts, which included its liability for environmental cleanup at toxic sites across the country.

Tronox, a paint materials company, filed for bankruptcy in January 2009.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York, Anadarko could pay between $5.1 billion and $14 billion for cleanup costs, with the Navajo Nation potentially receiving $880 million to $2.4 billion.

“Any funds resulting from this lawsuit are welcomed and long overdue,” Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly said in a statement.

The tribe was among claimants that included the United States, 11 states, four environmental response trusts, and a trust for the benefit of tort plaintiffs.

Navajo Nation Attorney General Harrison Tsosie said although uncertainties surround the appeal process, the Dec. 12 decision is still cause for celebration.

“A federal judge has issued a ruling that could result in over a billion dollars being made available for cleaning up some of the uranium contamination from past uranium mining and processing on the Navajo Nation,” Tsosie said.