United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

ASARCO (State of Texas)

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1.0 Site Identification

Type of Site: Complex Decommissioning Site
Location: Houston, TX
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2.0 Site Status Summary

The site is a State Superfund site and lies in industrial area in Houston, TX. The property is approximately 15 acres in size and is bounded to the north by a Union Pacific rail line, to the west by Highway 610, to the south by a Port of Houston Authority dredge spoils area, and to the east by an undeveloped tract of land. The site is adjacent to a demolished smelter that was operated by Federated Metals under the parent company ASARCO in the 1950's. The site is now owned by Environmental Liability Transfer Inc. (ELT) who is being assisted by TexCom Environmental Services (TexCom). As part of its investigations into the operational history of the site, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) discovered that the facility held a source material license (License No. C-5191) from the United States Atomic Energy Commission (USAEC) to manufacture magnesium anodes from magnesium-thorium alloy scrap from the Department of Defense (DOD). During the operational period magnesium-thorium slag and other metals, such as lead, were disposed of onsite on the adjacent property. Because the site is in State Superfund, there is no radioactive material license required. However, ELT will have to meet all technical requirements for decommissioning, specifically those outlined in 30 TAC §336.207 (1) and (2) relating to general requirements and 30 TAC 336 Subchapter G, Decommissioning Standards. TCEQ Superfund and Radioactive Material Licensing (RML) are working together to provide oversight of ELT's investigation and cleanup of this site.

3.0 Major Technical or Regulatory Issues

The waste piles contain thorium plus decay products with the highest concentrations being Thorium-230 at 11,500 picocuries/gram (pCi/g), radium-226 at 103 pCi/g, Th-232 at 1,900 pCi/g, and radium-228 at 608 pCi/g. Five groundwater monitoring wells exist on the site and, based on sample results, appear to have contamination from uranium above drinking water standards and from radium at or below drinking water standards. The contractor believes this to be from offsite sources and/or naturally occurring. All other radionuclides in the groundwater are below regulatory concern.

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Friday, June 26, 2015