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DOE, EPA Discussing Settlement of Fernald Fines

March 20, 1991

CINCINNATI (AP) _ The Department of Energy is negotiating over $332,500 in fines imposed by another federal agency because it missed deadlines to clean up waste at its Fernald uranium processing plant.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began fining the department in November for delaying on an agreed-upon cleanup of the Fernald plant. The DOE owns the plant.

″The two agencies are trying to work out some sort of a proposition that is agreeable to both,″ Gerald Westerbeck, the DOE’s site manager at the Feed Materials Production Center in Fernald, said Tuesday.

The agencies have been battling since the department began missing deadlines for submitting reports to the EPA on plans to clean up radioactive wastes on the 1,050-acre site. The first reports were due last fall.

EPA’s site coordinator, Catherine McCord, said the department consented to the deadlines in a voluntary agreement and should not be forgiven for missing them.

″I believe at this point we’ve gotten the right people’s attention. By this Friday, I think some agreement will be reached,″ McCord said. The EPA ″is very concerned about making sure this project progresses and we will not undermine the project,″ she said.

Officials said the department has four choices: accept a settlement, offer a counterproposal, ask for an extension, or appeal the fines to EPA Administrator William Reilly.

The energy department’s fines will continue mounting at $20,000 per week until the issue is settled.

The Fernald plant, 18 miles northwest of Cincinnati, processed uranium metal for the government’s production of nuclear weapons from 1951 until July 1989, when processing was halted to concentrate on site cleanup.

The EPA says it wants to put three-quarters of the department’s fines into an environmental trust fund. The rest of the money would be spent on community projects, such as hiring an expert to help Fernald-area residents understand technical issues related to the cleanup.

Rep. Charles Luken, D-Ohio, said last month he thinks it is ridiculous for one federal agency to fine another.

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