Air sample results a ‘pass’ for contamination at former Broken Arrow landfill


By John Dobberstein, Editor

Air sample results released by the EPA for the former Broken Arrow Landfill property show minute traces of radioactive material that were “below public effluent limits.”

Samples for thorium-232 and radium-228 were taken at the site from early October through early December and measured against a baseline effluent limit.

For thorium, the highest level recorded was 0.00000040 picocuries per liter (pCi/L), which is only half of the public effluent limit of 0.00000080 pCi/L. For radium, the highest score logged was 0.000028 pCi/L, far below the public effluent limit of 0.000400.

The EPA did not include further commentary on the results, but it appears to be good news. Publicly available fact sheets indicate that contaminated dust carried by the wind is one of the primary ways thorium and radium pollution can be spread and potentially affect humans.

Last month, water and sediment samples from a creek adjacent to the property did not find radioactive material higher than normal background levels naturally present, according to results posted by the EPA.

The EPA also posted the results of initial and final gamma surveys that measured the amount of radioactivity in the affected soils.

In December 2021, the levels of radium measured were up to 5 times higher than the background levels of the material, depending on the test location. After a clay cap was installed last month, data showed the radioactive leakage was at or below removal levels.

The EPA issued a removal order last summer for the waste and affected soil, but officials examining the site later found nearly 50,000 tons of radioactive waste was present – far more than expected.

A clay cap was installed over the contaminated area using standard engineering practices and it’s intended to be a long-term solution. Six-foot-high chain link fencing topped with barbed wire has been placed around the perimeter of the site.

According to the City of Broken Arrow, the property owner will be responsible for maintenance of the cap. The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality will continue oversight of the area.

The EPA is also continuing to investigate the source of the material, which is currently unknown

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