News Service


Emery Sobottka, ISU Environmental Health and Safety, (515) 294-5317
Kevin Teale, Iowa Department of Public Health, (515) 281- 6692
Steve Karsjen, Ames Laboratory, (515) 294-5643
Skip Derra, News Service, (515) 294-4917


AMES, Iowa -- The Iowa Department of Public Health has announced that the former Ames Laboratory chemical disposal site located on Iowa State University property meets the standards for "unrestricted use."

The announcement comes as a result of the completion of two reports: "Characterization Report for the Ames Laboratory Chemical Disposal Site -- Iowa State University" and "Tracer Results at the Ames Laboratory Chemical Disposal Site." The first report, prepared by ISU Environmental Health and Safety, is the result of a complete characterization of the site; the second report, produced by LaDon Jones, an ISU associate professor of civil engineering, details the results of research related to water movement at the site.

"After a careful review and analysis of the data, we agree with all conclusions and recommendations in the characterization report," said Don Flater, chief of the Bureau of Radiological Health for the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH). "Therefore, we concur that the site should be released for unrestricted use."

IDPH is also requiring that groundwater monitoring continue at the site until 2002. Officials will test 20 to 25 water samples annually from groundwater and surface wells both on- and off-site. This plan has the support of ISU and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"The annual monitoring of the site is part of our 'checks and balances' approach to any project like this," said Emery Sobottka, director of ISU's Environmental Health and Safety. "We believe the sampling will continue to confirm the results of the characterization study and the Jones report, which confirms the assessment that the underground water contaminant plume at the site has reached a steady state. We expect any remaining down-gradient concentrations to decrease over the coming years and, therefore, envision no potential threat to either Squaw Creek or the public water supply."

The former chemical disposal site is located north of Ontario Street on Scholl Road, east of the Applied Sciences Complex. Between 1958 and 1966, the site was used for the disposal of radioactive and chemical wastes. The materials, which were buried in nine pits on the site, resulted from research performed by Ames Laboratory scientists for the federal government on the Manhattan Project. In 1994, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) spent $4 million to clean up the site, removing approximately 2,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil and debris which were sent to a disposal site in Utah.

"It is through the cooperation of a number of state and federal agencies and the university that we have been able to take this former waste site from where it was to where it is today," said Tom Barton, director of the Ames Laboratory. "What should not be forgotten is the essential role played by our Community Advisory Group members, who spent a lot of time and effort over the past few years reviewing both the data and the process, and raising important questions."

Ames Laboratory is operated by ISU for the DOE. The laboratory conducts research in areas of national concern, including energy resources, high-speed computer design, environmental cleanup and restoration, and the synthesis and study of new materials.

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