[ RadSafe ] FUSRAP in Western NY

K. L. McMahan kb60127 at comcast.net
Mon Mar 7 21:29:34 CST 2011

Dr. Resnikoff,
Thank you for your comments and the article. The basis of my statement, "The
analyses show the materials to be natural uranium in equilibrium with its
daughters" comes from the report, "Results of Radiological Measurements
Taken in the Niagara Falls, New York, Area (NF002)," J. K. Williams and B.A.
Berven, ORNL/TM-10076, 1986 currently available at
www.lm.doe.gov/Niagara/NY_17-10.pdf. I understand from this report that
gamma dose rates above the surrounding are measurable. You don't say when
you were there with county personnel, but from the context I gather it was
recently. There are maps in the document; perhaps you will comment on
whether the locations identified in Figures 3 and 6 are where you and the
county personnel found the measurable dose rates.
I am curious as to your statement that the subsurface contains U tailings,
because tailings (to me) indicates material from which uranium has been
largely removed, and radium and its daughters are left behind. You may have
used the term just to indicate uranium bearing material, not necessarily
tailings by my definition. The report above gives in good detail the results
of soil sample analyses from most of the locations where elevated gamma
rates were found. These analyses show the U and Ra to be essentially in
equilibrium. I direct your attention to the section titled, "Significance of
Findings" where it states, "The anomalies from this region are similarly
associated with phosphate slag material used as bedding for asphalt
driveways and fill applications and are not related to materials connected
with the NFSS, including material that was transported to the NFSS" (NFSS I
understand to be property under the purview of the Army Corps of Engineers
where Manhattan Engineering District materials are found). It characterizes
the source of the slag in this manner: "This rocky-slag waste material was
once involved in the electrochemical production of elemental phosphorous
using uranium-bearing raw materials and reportedly originated from the
former Oldbury Furnace in Niagara Falls, New York." This property was (and
perhaps still is) located on or near Buffalo Avenue. I suppose it would be
impossible to find where this factory got its material from (it was built in
1897), but there are certainly well-known locations where U and Ra are
co-located with phosphate formations. The statement that slag from the
factory property was used in the roadbed is not sourced in ORNL/TM-10076. A
more recent publication (October 2010) that I browsed this evening,
LMS/NFS/S06246 (long title, also available on the DOE LM web site) in
section 6.1 seems to indicate there are ongoing discussions about past
sources of materials for road beds and construction but refers to them only
as containing "metal separation slag." Having previously ruled out MED
activities, I take this to mean that there were other non-MED metallurgical
operations in the local area with uranium-bearing slag that could have been
taken and used inadvertently in the roads.
I hate to split hairs like this, but due to the recent unpleasantness I feel
the need to be precise: if "U tailings" (my definition) is a proper
characterization of the material, then it did come from MED activities and
ACE would be tasked with dealing with it. But as it is, both ACE and NYS
seem content to agree that the material had not been processed to remove the
uranium and therefore did not come from MED activities, and it is NYS'
responsibility to handle it. It sounds like NYSDOT (but not the people
interviewed in the 2006 article you sent) is well aware of the existence of
the material since the need for some level of contamination control on
Lewiston Road (and presumably Buffalo Avenue) is built into the road
reconstruction contracts. Not that my opinion matters, but I agree that it's
a good time to get rid of the material in the roadbed if they promised to do
so. It's expensive for no observable reduction in hazard, but if that's the
way the NY taxpayers want their dollars spent that's OK with me. As a
federal taxpayer I may have contributed $0.01 to the project, but I lost
more pennies last week. </cynicism>
Kim McMahan


From: Marvin Resnikoff [mailto:radwaste at rwma.com] 
Sent: Monday, March 07, 2011 10:01 AM
To: The International Radiation Protection (Health Physics) Mailing List;
kb60127 at comcast.net
Subject: Re: [ RadSafe ] FUSRAP in Western NY

The subsurface for the original paved road, Buffalo Ave, was smoothed out
with U tailings.  The gamma levels through the pavement and some adjacent
properties are definitely detectable;  I know because I was out there with
county personnel.  As you see from the attached article from the Niagara
Gazette, Buffalo Ave was going to be torn up  and new sewer lines and road
surface were to be laid.  It therefore was an opportune time to remove the U
Marvin Resnikoff

--- On Mon, 3/7/11, K. L. McMahan <kb60127 at comcast.net> wrote:

From: K. L. McMahan <kb60127 at comcast.net>
Subject: [ RadSafe ] FUSRAP in Western NY
To: "'The International Radiation Protection (Health Physics) MailingList'"
<radsafe at health.phys.iit.edu>
Date: Monday, March 7, 2011, 7:29 AM

Last week I sent a very brief response to a RadSafe post that pointed to an
article in a local Buffalo, NY, online publication, Artvoice. The Artvoice
article commented on radioactive material that was excavated during road
construction activities on Lewiston Rd. in Niagara Falls, NY. At the time I
read the Artvoice article, I remembered from somewhere in the murky past
that work had been done in that area under a government program called
FUSRAP, so I posted a link to the Army Corps of Engineer's web site as a
source of credible information about that program's activities at the site
in Western New York (WNY).

The writer of the Artvoice article wrote to me privately and stated his
intention to attribute the radioactive material in the roadbed to the FUSRAP
site, using my name as the source. I objected rather vociferously, first
because that's not what I'd said, second because environmental remediation
is not my area of expertise, third because any third-year HP undergrad would
know that you'd need at least some isotopic analysis to begin the process of
determining the source, and fourth because he'd googled my name and found
that I work at ORNL, and he wanted to use the credibility of that name to
bolster the statement. But he wrote back several times and insisted that he
was going to "quote" me anyway. I posted some of those e-mails to RadSafe.
But it was a comment by him - that he hadn't originally attributed the
radioactivity to FUSRAP - that really piqued my interest. So I spent some
time this past weekend reading the history of WNY, the FUSRAP program, and
subjects beyond. 

I'll say up front that many of you are much more familiar with what has been
happening in this area than I am. But some of you wrote privately and said
that you, too, were not very familiar with FUSRAP. Below I am placing some
additional links in case you would like to do some followup.

Briefly, the history of WNY and its radioactive material is much broader
than what is covered by the FUSRAP program. So my original attribution to
FUSRAP as the "source material" for the Artvoice article was indeed
presumptuous, or at best the sloppy use of a single acronym to describe what
are multiple areas. The Artvoice author may be angry about FUSRAP material,
but he may also be angry about any number of industries that have operated
in WNY and have left a traceable footprint not only on their original sites,
but in some cases in areas outside those sites. The region was home to many
metallurgical industries, and this resource - the facilities and population
that knew how to make it work - drew WWII millitary attention and resources
to the area to do some of the front-end processing of natural uranium into a
form that was useful for feedstock for the calutrons here in Oak Ridge. WNY
was only one of several such processing locations needed for the war effort.

What I discovered in my reading, though, is that an enormous effort has been
made to find, characterize, triage, and where necessary remediate those
areas. A cast of agencies is involved, including the Army Corps of Engineers
(ACE), USDOE, the State of New York and NIOSH. I had some trouble locating
reports of the environmental monitoring that has been done offsite, but
finally found them on the DOE's Office of Legacy Materials website. Here's a
link to the portal page for WNY:


If you read some of these documents, you'll find that, indeed, radioactive
materials have been found offsite. Since at least the 1970's extensive work
has been done to map the locations and quantify the material and determine
where and if remediation is indicated. In many cases it's watchful waiting,
since there's no harm where it is under roads, although the State of NY
keeps an eye on that in case they need to go digging. Analyses *have* been
done to try to determine the source of the material that is in these
roadbeds - including on Lewiston Avenue (and other roads) in Niagara Falls,
NY, which was the subject of that recent Artvoice article (bless Buffalo's
heart, the roads get really bad quickly with all of the snow treatment and
removal that goes on, and apparently Lewiston Ave. is in a poor condition
due to the long lead time to handle the rad material). The analyses show the
materials to be natural uranium in equilibrium with its daughters -
indicating it is neither the feedstock material that was sent to Oak Ridge
nor the tail end from that processing which is stored on the FUSRAP site
(which has a signature dominated by U daughters and very little U). Instead,
the material used in the roadbed is attributed to a commercial site that
produced uranium-based material for ceramic colorings (I have in my mind a
picture of Fiesta Ware, but that's a different rabbit trail I haven't
traveled). Anyway, the bottom line is that since the material does NOT have
the signature of FUSRAP, it doesn't fall to FUSRAP/ACE to interst themselves
in it - that responsibility falls to the State of NY. 

Now having said all that I'll end this way-too-long post with a link to the
NIOSH EEOICPA site. Many of my colleagues have invested a great deal of
effort in this program, which investigated the dose histories of workers
involved in the production of wartime nuclear materials. A listing by site
of the dose reconstruction efforts is found at:


A number of the reports are for facilities in the WNY area (see AWE, LOOW,
Linde Ceramics, etc.). They describe the personnel dosimetry programs for
the workers, and retrospectively evaluate external and internal doses for
the worker population. My very quick impression is that a broad brush was
used where actual monitoring was not available, such that the doses
calculated would be favorable to an applicant. I'll probably spend more time
reading the reports. But not this morning, as I'm already late leaving for

Kim McMahan

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