By: Sarah Snyder
ANDREWS COUNTY - They say it's a groundbreaking development. Operations at the Waste Control Specialists site are well underway. On Tuesday, they opened the gates to give NewsWest 9 a rare, inside look.
"There's a lot of research that's done with radioactive materials, cancer and other items," WCS President, Rod Baltzer said. "Without a facility like this, those projects may slow down or stop altogether."
Some of the most noticeable features of the Waste Control Specialists' site are all the monitoring devices constantly checking water and radiation levels. On our first stop, we took a look at the GE project where they use an on-site train to transport, then process dredge from the upper Hudson River in New York.
"We have lots of risks and hazards out here," Baltzer said. "Our job is to minimize that. We want our employees to go home in as good of shape, if not better, than when they came here. We do a lot of training, a lot of safety."
From the top of the red clay hills, you can see the entire operation. Earlier this month, WCS brought in white canisters filled with uranium as a part of the Fernald project. They were used for nuclear weapon development in Germany in the late 1930's and had no longterm safety storage until now.
"This is a good place to store stuff," Andrews County Judge, Richard Dolgener, said. "They've got the red bed clay, 750 feet to store it, you've seen it. It's hard to tell people about it until you've seen it."
The red clay area in the center is the Texas Compact and Federal waste disposal facility - together they hold almost 30 million cubic feet of waste.
"These red bed clays are so tight, they're virtually impermiable," Baltzer said. "It just doesn't travel vertically up and down."
One of the biggest changes at WCS are the sheer number of employees. Right now they have 150, and county officials tell NewsWest 9, that's meant big development for Andrews County.
"There's a lot of people coming," Judge Dolgener said. "You go to the grocery store and you don't know people and you say, 'Are you here with an oil company?' And they say, 'No I'm here with LES or WCS.'"
WCS is gearing up for the next big project. They're now licensed for low level radioactive waste storage and disposal. That upgrade has a $75 million price tag and adds 75 more jobs to Andrews and Eunice. But what happens when workers are exposed to the radioactive materials??
"A lot of this stuff is less than you would get during the normal course of business," Baltzer said. "We do have radiation workers, so some of them will exceed that. We do plan those appropriately and we don't have anyone exposed when it's unecessary."
The construction for the low level radioactive site is slated to begin in a couple of months.
"This is historical in every sense of the word," Baltzer said.