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COLONIE: Site cleanup in final stages

After 23 years of clearing political, financial and engineering hurdles, the Army Corps of Engineers has announced that the last of the uranium-laden soil at the former National Lead site in Colonie will be shipped west.

It marks the end of extensive community and legislative efforts to clean the industrial site, surrounded by West Albany and city of Albany homes.

This month, Army Corps engineers announced that funding had been restored to the estimated $200 million cleanup, after the federal budget shorted the project $6 million last year. That loss of funding resulted in tons of contaminated soil sitting on cement pads waiting for the funds to cover the cost of shipping the waste soil to a storage site out west by rail.

Engineers had hoped that they would be able to complete the cleanup in September 2006. Nearly a year late is better than never, officials said.

This is it. We have commenced loading soil, and we are not going to stop until all the soil is moved from the site, said James Moore, project manager for the New York District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "We expect to be finished shipping in mid-August."

Moore is the third Corps project manger at the site.

Extensive cleanup of the 11-acre site began in 1991, with the cleanup of homes and properties adjacent to the site. The U.S. Department of Energy took over the site in the early 1980s and immediately began razing site structures. The contaminated soil was left behind.

In its heyday, National Lead contracted with the Department of Energy to fabricate aircraft ballast constructed of depleted uranium for post-World War II aircraft. The company continued to work with nuclear materials until 1984, when remediation of the site began.

The site will be turned back over to the Department of Energy once cleanup is completed, said Moore. If it has no use for it, it will be offered to other federal agencies, then on to state agencies and finally local agencies.

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