Fernald Preserve came about as a result of the efforts of the Fernald Residents for Environmental Safety and Health (FRESH) to shut down the uranium processing plant at Fernald operated by the Department of Defense. This plant was the primary processing and enrichment(concentrating) facility for uranium before it was shipped to the Y-12 plant in Oak Ridge for manufacturing into nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, the government ignored its own agencies' warnings that this was the wrong place for the plant to be built but the Cold War trumped that ace and the plant was built anyway.
50 years later, a half century of unabated low-level radiation leakage from both the plant and the waste storage in clay-lined pits on the property had created a severe pollution problem in the local ground water - FRESH was started to get it fixed, to get it cleaned up.
I was a member of FRESH from 1986 on, even though I didn't qualify to be included in the lawsuit and subsequent settlement. When DOD did nothing but stonewall these "...hysterical women...", I knew something had to be done to get things moving - I contacted ABC News in D.C., hosted them on a covert tour, and smiled with pride when 20/20 aired their episode 6 weeks later putting the plant manager on a very uncomfortable spot.
Several BILLION dollars later, after the plant was demolished and the waste barreled and shipped to Nevada, this money-pit was declared "cleaned-up". Translated that means that 10K years from now, the site will finally be back to normal background radiation levels.
So what to do with this site now that it was "cleaned-up"? Given that the site is still a pariah in the neighborhood due to its residual low-level radiation, no one would ever try to develop it, so it was decided to make it into a nature preserve and let the land go fallow. A visitors center was built, and I must say that the section in the VC with the history of Fernald and the development of the nuclear industry in the U.S. during the Cold War is the best part of the preserve. Other than that, there isn't much there other than open fields and a lot of Canada Geese.
Which brings us to the fact that Fernald is still a DOD money-pit. Remedial monitoring continues as do other scientific investigations, however, several years ago, the geese were leaving "deposits" around the visitor center and had become a nuisance. DOD contracted with a dog handler to bring his two sheep dogs over from Kentucky and run off the geese FROM THEIR OWN WILDLIFE PRESERVE!! A loud speaker on a continuous tape loop broadcasting a distressed bird call from the roof of the VC would have solved the problem at a fraction of the cost.
Excuse my bias, but I still blame Fernald for the very rare tumor I had to have removed from my left lung, and still have a hard time getting out of the car on those rare occasions when I actually drive onto the property, but I still like to check on the old girl and see how she's healing and remember a phone call that got it all started.
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