Nuclear waste from Oppenheimer’s Manhattan project to be removed from WNY campus

BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) – A contractor has been selected to begin cleanup of a Lewiston nuclear waste site that houses residue from the Manhattan Project, which helped develop the atomic bomb nearly 80 years ago.

The US Army Corps of Engineers’ Buffalo District announced that it has awarded a $40 million contract to Enviro-Fix Solutions for the removal and offsite disposal of low-level radioactive material at a property called the Niagara Falls storage site.

“People should be excited that we’re cleaning up this area — and that we have the resources to do it,” said Amy Gaskill, a spokeswoman for the Army Corps of Engineers. “We’re glad we took care of it after all these years. We will do this in a safe way.”

The full rehabilitation of the 191-acre Pletcher Road camp site is expected to take decades and cost an additional million dollars. The Army Corps of Engineers anticipates that the site will be suitable for industrial use upon completion of the project.

Phase 1 work, approved this month, includes the removal of 6,000 cubic yards of soil and 4,000 gallons of groundwater from the site, according to the Army Corps. The removal of radioactive waste from the Interim Waste Containment Structure (IWCS), an underground vault storing over 250,000 cubic meters of waste and tailings, is reserved for phases 2 and 3 of the project, which will not be completed until the late 2030s at the earliest. The contractor has not yet determined where the waste is to be taken to.

An overview of the 191 hectare Niagara Falls deposit in Lewiston, prepared by the Army Corps of Engineers. The IWCS is displayed in the lower left corner.

Enviro-Fix Solutions is expected to complete its work plan this fall and a public briefing is planned for February. Work is scheduled to begin next spring and be completed by fall 2024.

The Niagara Falls Storage Site was used by the Manhattan Engineer District beginning in 1944 to store radioactive tailings and waste from uranium ore processing. accordingly the Army Corps of Engineers. Radioactive waste and tailings continued to be brought to the site for storage through 1952. The first cleanup and consolidation work began in 1986.

While another cleanup of the site has been debated for years, Gaskill said the summer box-office hit “Oppenheimer” — the Christopher Nolan film about Manhattan project leader J. Robert Oppenheimer — put public focus back on the project from the time of the Second World War, how its impact can still be felt on site today. Increased awareness could also lead to greater participation in the public information event in February.

“This film raises people’s awareness of what happened there,” she said. “We have already planned to hold public meetings to ensure transparency. It’s important that people understand that we’re keeping an eye on them.”

The Niagara Falls Storage Site is about a mile and a half east of the Lewiston Porter schools. Gaskill said regular testing is being carried out to ensure there are no concerns about contamination at the school.

“We work very closely with the school district to make sure they are well informed,” Gaskill said. “You are one of our most important stakeholders.”

The Niagara Falls Storage Site is one of four sites in western New York listed by the government under the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP). According to the Army Corps of Engineers: “FUSRAP was established in 1974 to identify, survey and, if necessary, clean up or control sites throughout the United States contaminated by activities of the Manhattan Engineer District (MED) or the early Atomic Energy Commission (AEC).”

The other local FUSRAP sites are Guterl Specialty Steel in Lockport, Seaway Industrial Park in Tonawanda and the Tonawanda Landfill. Other sites are considered completed and have been returned to the Department of Energy for long-term management. More information on FUSRAP websites can be found here Here.

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A Buffalo native, Nick Veronica joined the News 4 team in 2021 as Digital Executive Producer. He previously worked at NBC Sports and The Buffalo News. You can continue to follow Nick Facebook And Twitter and find more of his work here.

Tom Vazquez

Tom Vazquez is a USTimeToday U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Tom Vazquez joined USTimeToday in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with Tom Vazquez by emailing

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