The Beltsville Agriculture Research Center is preparing to dig up radioactive waste burried on its grounds since the late 1940s, according to Kim Kaplan, spokesperson for the Agricultural Research Service, of which the Beltsville center is a part. The materials are headed to a licensed landfill in Utah after that, Kaplan said.
The 46 pits where the waste now lies comprise a low-level radiological burial site, according to a research service notice that Kaplan said was hand-delivered to people near the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center's [BARC] campus.
There is no direct health threat from the low-level radioactive burial site to people working at or living near the research center, the notice states.
The site reportedly contains radioactively-contaminated wastes from the center's research work, such as carcasses, fluids, gloves and syringes, the notice says. Kaplan said this information comes from BARC records. Some of the materials are long-lived, such as radioactive forms of hydrogen, carbon, radium, and cesium—but others are are no longer radioactive, the notice adds.
As landfills became available that were capable of taking radioactive waste, the research center, a federal property, stopped disposing those materials on-site, according to Kaplan. It was cheaper, easier, and took less personnel to use the offsite landfills, she said.
Though BARC no longer uses them, the 46 pits—which are 10-feet wide by 12-feet long and 10-feet deep—remain on its land. The research center is now making plans to begin digging in December or January, Kaplan said. It will place the waste material in sealed containers, then transport them to the Utah landfill, she said.
Greenbelt resident Bill Orleans raised the issue at Greenbelt City Council's regular meeting Tuesday, after seeing a public meeting notice in the Prince George's Sentinel. He said he wanted to know more about it and thought that council should as well.
Mayor Judith "J" Davis said that most of council was aware that there were many sites throughout BARC that have been used as landfill and disposal, and that the research center has been working to mitigate many of them. She asked the city's Director of Planning, Celia Craze about the matter. Craze said that she was not aware of this specific waste removal but said she would look into it.
The exact start of the removal depends on the weather and clearances from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The commission has already approved BARC's request to close the disposal sites but it still needs to approve the work plan before activity can begin, according to Kaplan.
The Beltsville Agricultural Research Center's public meeting is scheduled from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Oct. 16, in Building 003 — Room 020, at 10300 Baltimore Ave. in Beltsville, MD.
The public will likely have an opportunity to speak at the meeting, according to Kaplan, but she recommended that citizens submit their comments in writing by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to: Kim Kaplan, Public Affairs Specialist, ARS Information Staff, Room 1-2253, 5601 Sunnyside Ave. Beltsville, MD 20705.