Maxey Flat

Maxey Flat

Coordinates: 38°15′30″N 83°34′10″W / 38.25833°N 83.56944°W / 38.25833; -83.56944

Maxey Flat Low-Level Radioactive Waste facility
Superfund site
Maxey Flats Disposal Site - Aerial View 001.jpg
Aerial view of the Maxey Flats Disposal Site.
Town Hillsboro
County Fleming County
State Kentucky
Maxey Flat is located in Kentucky
Contaminants Heavy metals, radioactive compounds, VOCs, pesticides, and PAHs
50 "de maximis" parties
306 "de minimis" parties
Proposed 10/15/84
Listed 06/10/86
Superfund sites

The Maxey Flat Low-Level Radioactive Waste (LLRW) facility is a Superfund site in Kentucky.[1]



Maxey Flat Kentucky Low-Level Radiation Facility Entrance Sign
The entrance to the Maxey Flat Low Level Radioactive Waste site in Maxey Flat, Kentucky, USA. Taken in 2003 before the sign was removed by Homeland Security.

Maxey Flat is a hilltop community in Kentucky approximately 10 miles (16 km) northwest of Morehead and approximately 17 miles (27 km) south of Flemingsburg on County Road 1895. It is on the county line of Rowan and Fleming counties. Maxey Flat is in the Knobs physiographic region of Kentucky, an area characterized by flat-topped ridges (Flats) and hills (Knobs). Maxey Flat is one of the largest flat-topped ridges in the area. Though the area is frequently referred to in government documentation as 'Maxey Flats,' the historically correct name of the area is simply 'Maxey Flat.'

Maxey Flat Low Level Radioactive Waste facility

As part of a program to encourage the nuclear industry in Kentucky, the Kentucky General Assembly created the Division of Nuclear Information. In 1960 the Kentucky General Assembly passed legislation granting the governor power to enter into agreement with the federal government for the transfer of regulatory powers concerning atomic energy in Kentucky. Also in 1960, Governor Bert T. Combs charged the Cabinet of Health with the regulatory and licensing responsibilities for the handling of radioactive materials. In 1962 Kentucky became the first of the old Atomic Energy Commission "Agreement States." The Kentucky Division of Nuclear Information was then succeeded by the Division of Atomic Development which then transferred its responsibilities to the Kentucky Atomic Energy Authority which eventually became the Kentucky Science and Technology Commission. In retrospect it seems that many of these agencies were established with the hope of bringing a nuclear power plant to Kentucky. Despite being the first state to enter into agreement with the Atomic Energy Commission, Kentucky has never been the site of a nuclear reactor. However, in 1962 Nuclear Engineering Company, Inc. (NECO) bought 252 acres (1.02 km2) of land on Maxey Flat and submitted an application for a license to bury radioactive waste there. The license was granted in January 1963.

From 1963 to 1977 the Maxey Flat Low Level Radioactive Waste facility served as a dump for 832 corporations and government agencies. The site covered 252 acres (1.02 km2) and consisted of a series of 52 unlined trenches that are an average of 360 feet (110 m) long, 70 feet (21 m) wide and 20 feet (6.1 m) deep. Approximately 4,750,000 cubic feet (135,000 m3) of Low Level Radioactive Waste was deposited on-site. These trenches were capped with dirt when they reached their capacity limit, but because of the heavy rainfall in the area the soil collapsed into the trenches and the trenches filled with water. It has since been referred to as the "bathtub effect." The water that invaded the trenches became radioactive and had to be disposed of. Under the direction of President and Chief Executive Officer James N. Neel, Nuclear Engineering Company (referred to in operational documentation as 'NECO'), now known as 'American Ecology' (Nasdaq: ECOL), installed an evaporator and disposed of the accumulated radioactive water as steam from 1973 to April 1986, nearly 9 years after the site had stopped accepting waste materials. The evaporator generally operated 24 hours a day. Approximately six million gallons of liquid were processed by the evaporator. In addition to the trenches for Low Level Radioactive Waste there were "Hot Wells" that were used to store Special nuclear material (plutonium and enriched uranium). The Hot Wells were typically 10 to 15 feet (4.6 m) deep, constructed of concrete, coated steel pipe or tile, and capped with a slab of concrete. Approximately 950 pounds of Special Nuclear Material is buried at Maxey Flat.

From 1987 to 1991 a study was done to determine the best method of cleaning up the site. Extensive remediation was then undertaken, including the installation of a 45 mil scrim-reinforced geomembrane liner covering the site of the trenches to prevent the infiltration of water. The site is currently managed by the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The site is considered non-reclaimable and will have to be monitored and maintained in perpetuity. In 2003 the site's nature as a risk to national security came under review by the Department of Homeland Security, primarily because of the transuranic isotopes stored at the site.

In response to concerns that the radioactive isotopes at the site might be used against American interests, DHS had the sign at the entrance to the facility removed so it would be harder to find.

Potentially Responsible Parties (incomplete)


AAI Corporation (for Aircraft Armaments)
Abbott Laboratories
ADCO Services (for Atomic Disposal)
Advance Transportation Co. (for A&H Truck Line)
Aeronca, Inc.
Aeroprojects, Inc.
Akzo Nobel (for American Enka)
Aladdin Industries, Inc.
American Can Co.
American cast Iron Pipe Co.
American Machine & Foundry
Anchor Dyeing & Finishing Co.
Applied Science Laboratories
APA/Smithls Transfer
Associated Radiologists, Inc.
B. F. Goodrich Co.
BASF Comp.
Batesville Manufacturing Co. (Gencorp Aerojet)
Bausch & Lomb
Beazer East, Inc. (for Koppers Co.)
Bethlehem Steel Corp.
The BOC Group (for Air Reduction Co. & Airco Alloys & Carbide)
BoWater Carolina Corp.
BRT Inc. (for Huyck Felt)
Bulova Watch Co., Inc.
Campbell Soup Co.
CBS, Inc.
Chemetron Chemicals
Colgate-Palmolive Co.
Dow Corning Corp.
Eaton Corporation
Eli Lilly & Co.
Ethyl Corporation
Fansteel, Inc.
Ford Motor Co.
GAF Corporation
General Motors Corp.
The GNI Group, Inc. (for Nuclear Environmental Engineering)
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
Honeywell Inc.
Industrial Process Co.
Institute of Gas Technology
Irvin Industries, Inc. (for Systems Research Labs)
Laboratory Equipment Corp.
Johnson Controls, Inc.
Kittening Research Lab
Kimberly-Clark Corp.
Leeds & Northrup
Mallinckrodt, Inc.
Merck & Co, Inc.
Marion Merrell Dow Inc. (for William S. Merrell Co.)
Monsanto Company
Morrison-Knudsen, Inc.
Navistar International(for International Harvester)
Nuclear Radiation Devel. Inc.
Nuclear Sources & Services, Inc.
Occidental Chemical Corp. (for Diamond Shamrock & Diamond Alkali)
Oxcart Corp.
Old Colony Dayton Envelope Co. (International Paper)
Owens-Corning Fiberglass Corp.
Oxy USA (Cities Service Oil & Gas. Co.)
Parke Davis & Co.
Parkson Corp.
Pennwalt Corp.
Pharmacia, Inc. (for Electronucleonics)
PPG Industries, Inc.
Pyrotonics, Division of Baker Industries
Quantum Chemical Corp. (for National Distillers and U.S. Industrial Chemicals Co.)
R. G. Thomas & Associates
Radiac Research Corp.
RAM Electronics, Inc.
Rexham Corp. (for Speedring and National Spectrographic Laboratories)
Rhone-poulenc Rorer Pharmaceuticals Inc. (for William H. Rorer, Inc.)
Rohm & Haas (for Warren-Teed Consolidated Biomedical Labs)
Sealed Power Technologies (SPX Corp.)
Searle Diagnostic Lab
Standard Steel
Texas Instruments, Inc.
Theodore R. Schwalm, Inc.
Todd Shipyards Corp.
Troxler Electronic Labs, Inc.
TRW, Inc.
Uptown Company
W. R.. Grace & Co.
Warner-Lnohert Co.
Welding Engineering
Xtek Inc. (for Tool Steel Gear & Pinion co.)

Government agencies

Department of Energy
Department of the Interior
Environmental Protection Agency
National Institute of Mental Health
National Institute for Standards
U.S. Bureau of Mines
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture
U.S. Food & Drug Administration
U.S. Geological Survey
U.S. Public Health Service
Smithsonian Institution
Veterans Administration
Florida Dept. of Transportation
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Utilities and Energy firms
Northern States Power
Omaha Public Power District
Wisconsin Electric Power

Maine Yankee Atomic Power Co.

Ashland Chemical Co.
Ashland Petroleum Co.
Exxon Research & Engineering (for Esso and Humble Oil Co.)
Phillips Petroleum Co.

Medical Research facilities
Carnegie Institution of Washington
IIT Research Institute
Institute for Cancer Research
Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation
Sterling Winthrop Research Inst.
Research Triangle Institute
Wistar Institute

Auburn University
Brown University
Bryn-Mawr College
Carnegie-Mellon University
Case Western Reserve University
Catholic University
Centre college
Clemson University
Columbia University
Drexel University and Institute of Technology
Medical College of Pennsylvania

Duke University
Emory University
George Washington University Hospital
Georgetown University Hospital
Haverford College
Howard University
Jewish Hospital of St. Louis
Johns Hopkins University
Louisiana State University
Lycoming College
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Michigan State University
Penn State University
Purdue University

Rhode Island Nuclear Science Center

Rockford College
Stevens Institute of Technology
Rutgers University
State University of New York
Tulane University
University of Alabama Systems
University of Arkansas
University of Cincinnati
University of Connecticut
University of Florida
University of Illinois
University of Maryland at Baltimore
University of Miami
University of Michigan
University of Notre Dame
University of Oklahoma
University of Pennsylvania
University of South Carolina
University of Tennessee
University of Texas
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Vanderbilt University
Washington University
Wayne State University
West Virginia University
Wittenberg University
Yale University

Albert Einstein Medical Center
Alexander Blain Memorial Hospital
Allegheny General Hospital
American Oncologic Hospital
Atlantic City Hospital
Baptist Memorial Hospital (FL)
Barnesville Hospital
Bashline Hospital Assoc., Ltd.
Bay Medical Center
Bethany Medical Center
Bethesda Hospital, Inc. (Cincinnati)
Braddock General Hospital
Brandywine Hospital (for Coatsville Hosp.)
Charleston Memorial Hospital
Chestnut Hill Hospital
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Children's Hospital (Colnmhusy OH)
Christ Hospital (James N. Gamble Institute)
Community Methodist Hospital
Dover General Hospital & Medical Center
Duplin General Hospital Kenansville
Good Samaritan Hospital (Lexington, KY)
Greater Southeast Community Hospital (formerly Morris Cafritz Hospital)
Greene Memorial Hospital
Henry Ford Hospital
Hurley Hospital
Incarnate Word Hospital

Jackson Memorial Hospital
Jeanes Hospital
Jewish Hospital (Louisville, KY)
Johns Hopkins Hospital/Johns Hopkins Health System
Johnston-Willis Hospital

King's Daughterly Hospital
Lankenau Hospital
Lee Hospital
Lenoir Memorial Hospital
Lutheran Hospital of Indiana, Inc.

Margaret R. Pardee Memorial Hospital
Menorah Medical Center

Mercy Catholic Medical Center
Mercy Hospital Anderson (for Our Lady of Mercy Hospital)
Mercy Medical Center (Coon Rapids, MN)
Miami Valley Hospital
Mother Fiances Hospital
Mt. Sinai Medical Center (OH)

Reid Memorial Hospital
Retreat Hospital
Roger Williams General Hospital
Saginaw General Hospital
Sandusky Memorial Hospital

Southeastern General Hospital
St. Francis Hospital
St. Juleps Hospital
St. Louis Testing Labs, Inc.
St. Thomas Hospital
Suburban Community Hospital
Tampa General Hospital
Tinmen Mercy Medical Center
West Penn Hospital

Maxey Flat ground water contamination data from 1988

References in popular culture

  • The Maxey Flat Low Level Radioactive Waste site is the subject of the documentary film American Threnody.

See also

  • List of Superfund sites in Kentucky


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