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Army Corps: Nuke Cleanup Now $350M Up From $44M

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Behind a chain-linked fence and underneath a now snow-covered field in Armstrong County lays an untold number of 55-gallon drums containing radioactive nuclear waste.

Excavation of the field stopped two years ago when it was discovered to be "more complex" than imagined. That's something that concerns those who live nearby.

"It's unsafe," said Marla Hutchinson, of Parks Township. "If it's that unsafe that they had to shut it down, then it's not safe for us to live here."

But now the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says they are about to move forward with the excavation and will spend an additional $350 million to do it in a safe manner.

"What are obligations are is to make sure we deliver a safe and clean and usable site back to them," Michael Helbling, of the Army Corps of Engineer, said. "And that is absolutely our intention."

The Corps will be looking for a new contactor this summer and spend a year developing a plan, and then begin excavating in 2017. Plans to encapsulate the waste on site have been abandoned for good.

"That was not a very popular remedy, but this remedy to excavate it and ship it off site is popular with the people," said Helbling.

The waste - from a now defunct nuclear facility in nearby Apollo - was dumped here during the 1960s and 1970s. A group of resident successfully resident filed suit, many having developed cancer and other fatal diseases they attributed to the radioactive material.

Marla and Hutch Hutchinson haven't but worry about the waste exploding or catching fire.

"If something ever happens over there we're dead. Period," said Hutch.

And the cleanup is slated to take 10 years, which the Hutchinsons say is too long, and want to be bought out of their home instead.

"What's going to happen to us while they're doing it?" Hutch said. "I don't believe there's a safe way for them to do it without affecting us. If we're not already affected by it."

The good news is this site will be cleaned up. The bad news is it will take a long time, and resident says it's an everyday threat to their health and safety.

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