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Kentucky Water Science Center

Maxey Flats Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Site

The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Kentucky Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet—Department for Environmental Protection—Division of Waste Management (KNREPC-DWM), has an ongoing multi-discipline project which includes the collection of water level, streamflow, and precipitation data to aid the State in monitoring this low-level radioactive waste-disposal site.

The Maxey Flats site is located about 10 miles northwest of Morehead, Ky., in Fleming County. The site is located on a “flat” surrounded on the east, west, and south by steep wooded hillsides and is connected to a ridge on the north. Elevation differences range from 1,050 feet above sea level on top of the flat to 700 feet above sea level at the stream valleys below.

Ground-water-level and precipitation data were collected from several monitoring wells and trenches at the Maxey Flats low-level radioactive waste disposal site for the period October 1988 to present. Continuous streamflow and precipitation data were collected for 2 surface-water sites for the period of July 1996 to present. Data were collected on a semi-annual basis, continuously, and monthly or bimonthly from the wells and stream gages.

The Maxey Flats low-level radioactive waste disposal site began operation as a commercial radioactive waste-disposal facility in May 1963. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) involvement began in 1962 with a well inventory of the Maxey Flats area. In 1973, the Kentucky Cabinet for Human Resources (KCHR) reported the detection of radionuclides outside the disposal trenches.

Concern about the migration of radionuclides from the Maxey Flats site in northeastern Kentucky has led to several extensive hydrogeologic and water-quality studies. In 1974, the USGS began collecting water-level and precipitation data to assess the basic hydrologic system at the Maxey Flats site (Zehner, 1979 and 1983). An extensive ground-water data-collection network has been maintained by the USGS and the KNREPC–DWM to obtain information needed to define the hydrologic setting at the site.

Commercial disposal operations at the facility ceased in December 1977 because of increased concern about the migration of radionuclides from the site. The Maxey Flats site was placed on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (USEPA) Superfund National Priority List in 1986, and remediation plans were developed for the site.

Remediation of the site began in 1995 and included the pumping of leachate from trench sumps, solidifying the leachate, and storing the material in a concrete bunker on site. From 1997 to 2000, over 700,000 gallons of leachate were pumped from the trenches (Hampson, 2000). Also during this period, construction began on cut-off trenches to the north and east of the burial site to intercept any recharge to or leakage from the trench area. Long-term water-level monitoring of wells and trench sumps is being used to help determine the effectiveness of this remediation.

The site, including a recently acquired buffer zone, now encompasses 650 acres of State-owned land. The actual disposal area is contained on about 50 acres on top of Maxey Flats. Most of the monitoring wells surround this restricted area, with a few clusters of wells inside the restricted area.

Currently data is collected continuously from 15 wells and 2 surface-water sites, and quarterly from 2 wells. Current and historical data is available for retrieval from the USGS Kentucky NWISWeb

Additional information about the Maxey Flats Waste Disposal Site and the USGS project can be obtained from Douglas Zettwoch, KY WSC, (phone) 502-493-1922, (email)

Current and Historical Data

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Additional Links

USGS personnel measuring ground-water levels at Maxey Flats
    USGS personnel measuring ground-water levels at Maxey Flats

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Page Last Modified: Monday, January 05, 2009 11:09:36 AM