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Radiation Disposal Site


The low-level Radiation Disposal Site (RDS) is located in the Town of Lansing, in Tompkins County, New York. The disposal site itself is about 290 by 300 feet in size, or about 2 acres. An 8-foot high security fence with locked gate encloses an area that extends approximately 60 feet outside the perimeter of the former disposal area, preventing access to the site. Snyder Road bounds the property on the south. Land owned by Cornell University lies to the north, east and west.


The RDS was developed in 1956 for disposal of low-level radioactive laboratory research materials. Disposal operations at the site continued until 1978 in compliance with State and Federal regulations in effect at that time. Wastes were buried in trenches excavated 6 to 12 feet deep. Laboratory materials, such as test tubes, gloves, pipettes, and animal fecal matter, were placed in plastic bags, and carcasses of small animals were placed in drums and boxes before disposal. Carcasses of larger animals were buried directly in the trenches. In addition to animal carcasses and dry waste such as test tubes and gloves, solvents used in procedures that count radioactive emissions also were buried at the site. Among these solvents are toluene, various alcohols, xylene, and paradioxane.

Cleanup Progress and Monitoring

Cleanup work at the RDS is being done in phases, in accordance with the regulatory procedures of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC).

In 1996-97, capping Interim Remedial Measures (IRM) were completed at the RDS including: covering the disposal area with a high-density polyethylene (HDPE) cap system with gas vents; grading the area to provide surface water diversion and erosion protection systems; and installing a below-ground conveyance line to transport extracted groundwater from the RDS to the Chemical Disposal Site (CDS) Groundwater Treatment Plant (GWTP) located approximately one-third of a mile to the southeast of the RDS.

These Interim Remedial Measures eliminated surface water contact with the waste, surface water, and rainwater infiltration into the waste, air emissions from the site, and direct contact by animals or people with the site.

The groundwater recovery and treatment system for the RDS began operating in 2002. Contaminated groundwater from the RDS is pumped to the treatment plant at the nearby Chemical Disposal Site (CDS) where it is treated to remove paradioxane.  Treated water must meet treatment standards established by the NYSDEC before it is discharged. In March 2002, the NYSDEC selected the final remedy for the RDS. The selected remedy includes upgrading the cap over the disposal area, constructing an underground barrier wall around the disposal area and continued operation of the groundwater recovery system. The selected remedy was chosen to protect public health and prevent, to the extent practicable, contamination of the environment by pollutants leaking out of the disposal site. Construction activities for the selected remedy were completed in 2004.

Environmental monitoring of groundwater and surface water near the site and the surrounding area is performed on a regular basis according to the monitoring plan approved by NYSDEC. Annual reports with the results from monitoring are submitted to the NYSDEC.