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State to present investigation results on US Ecology fire

Officials will present findings from the investigation into the October industrial fire at the US Ecology site at meetings in Amargosa Valley and Beatty on Monday.

Nye County Emergency Management Director Vance Payne said the Nevada Division of Emergency Management (NDEM) had asked Nye County officials to coordinate town hall meetings.

Caleb Cage, chief of Nevada Division of Emergency Management, Pete Mulvihill, chief of the Nevada Fire Marshall's Office and Jon Bakkedahl, supervisor of the Nevada Radioactive Material Program will provide a summary of the investigation to the public. Officials will also have a question-and-answer session following the presentation.

Payne on Thursday said that he was "anxious" for the meetings.

"A lot of hours went into that investigation, but most important is that the state of Nevada will allow the public to interact with the information," Payne said.

Bakkedahl said officials will discuss the emergency phase, the investigation phase and the current up-to-date repairs as well as future plans for quoting and hiring contractors for repairs to the site.

"We are planning on being transparent on the steps taken to this point and answer questions about our processes and the goals of our program to analyze, engineer and repair the site," Bakkedahl said in an email. "Finally, the site has gone through several steps of repairs; currently the cap has received all interim repairs and continues to have frequent site inspections.

In a press release on Dec. 30, officials said that the industrial fire at the state-owned radioactive waste disposal site located on U.S. Highway 95 approximately 12 miles south of Beatty was caused by a chemical reaction between rainwater and sodium metal in the trench area where low-radioactive waste had been buried.

Officials said the investigation had found corrosion of the steel drums containing the metallic sodium allowed packaging fluid to seep out, leaving the metallic sodium exposed to the underground elements. Heavy rainfall seeped into the ground and reached the metallic sodium through a compromised cover causing the fire.

The 80-acre industrial site in Nye County consists of a 40-acre low-level radiological waste storage site and a 40-acre active chemical processing facility. The site was operated by US Ecology and its predecessor, Nuclear Engineering Co. from 1962 through 1992.

The meetings will take place at the Amargosa Valley Community Center, located at 821 East Amargosa Farm Road in Amargosa Valley from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Beatty Community Center, located at 100 A Avenue South in Beatty from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Both meetings are scheduled for Monday.

The meetings are free and open to the public.

Contact reporter Daria Sokolova at dsokolova@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @dariasokolova77

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