Tribal member offers cleanup solution
POCATELLO — A member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes with an extensive history as a non-degreed engineer disagrees with the Environmental Protection Agency's assertion that there is no safe alternative to capping the former FMC site of the Eastern Michaud Flats Superfund site, which lies largely within the Fort Hall Indian Reservation.
The site contains a variety of dangerous materials, including elemental phosphorus and radioactive materials.
Over the past 40 years, Louis Archuleta has worked as a draftsman, non-degreed engineer and field engineer on projects ranging from the Space Shuttle Launch Facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., and the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Plant at the Idaho National Laboratory.
Lori Cohen, EPA Region-10 Superfund deputy director, previously told The Morning News that there is no safe way to remediate the site.
"We have studied the site for a number of years," Cohen said. "There is no way—that we know of—to safely treat and remove the materials at the site." The largest concern for removal is the potential for explosive or reactive materials below the surface, she said.
Cohen said the site will continue to be monitored long-term, and that capping the site is what occurs when there is no safe alternative to removing the waste. But she said they can revisit their decision if new technology becomes available to treat or remove the waste.
"When they told us there wasn't the technology to clean up the site, I said, 'B.S.,'" Archuleta said.
"Utilizing my 40 years of engineering background, I realized that that was a fallacy," he said. "The EPA is thinking in a box."
Archuleta took a poster detailing his proposals for safe removal of the waste at the former FMC furnace building and the slag pile the company created.
In short, Archuleta's proposal suggests using argon gas, an inert gas which is heavier than air, to blanket the site to be cleaned. A remote digger would load the waste onto conveyor belts and move it. The argon blanket would keep the phosphorus, which ignites when exposed to air, from doing so.
A similar setup would be used on the slag pile, moving that radioactive material to a place where it could be mixed with materials which mediate the radioactivity and make the resultant product into salable bricks.
"Why did they miss this?" Archuleta asked of his proposal. "When I heard that they just wanted to cap this, I said, 'that's totally unacceptable.'
"I'm concerned because my grandchildren and great-grandchildren live in this area and I don't want them exposed to this crap," he said.
Although it is possible the public comment period will be extended, it is currently scheduled to close on Oct. 26.
Comments can be mailed to Chris Bellovary, US EPA Region 10, ECL-113, 1200 Sixth Ave, Suite 900, Seattle, WA 98101-3723 or emailed to email@example.com. Please put "FMC Proposed Plan" in the subject line.
For more information about the site, visit EPA’s Eastern Michaud Flats Superfund Site website go.usa.gov/iTC. A website created by the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes with information about the site is www.eastidahocleanup.org.