August 23, 1999 -- The Westinghouse subsidiary under contract with the federal government to manage the contaminated West Valley Demonstration Project (WVDP) announced it would embark on a 25-year project to soak up strontium-90 in contaminated groundwater flowing from the site with kitty litter.
One of two legs of an underground plume radioactive groundwater leaking from the West Valley site cannot be stopped and is moving toward a ravine flowing into Cattaragus Creek. The latest effort to solve the problem comes in the face of federal indecision over what to do to clean up the contamination.
This and the following information is taken from Laura Howard's coverage of the 8/23/99 press conference held by West Valley officials, from which we quote liberally. Salamanca Press, 8/24/99.
"WVDP began a pilot project [on 8/23/99] by ramming massive steel sheet piles into the ground, forming a rectangular box in front of the [plume] to form a trench 30 feet long, 28 feet deep and 6 feet wide. Soil [in the box] will then be replaced with pea gravel and cat litter."
This idea was tested by University at Buffalo engineers who found that kitty litter, because it "contains a clay-like volcanic material known as zeolite, is effective for absorbing strontium-90."
Strontium-90's half-life is 28 years. They kitty litter barrier, however, is expected to last 25 years, when about half the strontium-90 now in the groundwater will still be there. According to WVDP's public relations manager, "By then we should have a decision on the site -- whether the material will be dug out or perhaps closed in place."