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FMC site cleanup underway; some still fear radiation

An Environmental Protection Agency-ordered cleanup at Power County’s former FMC site is well underway.

Once the world’s largest phosphorus processing plant, the FMC plant closed in 2001. But years later, elemental phosphorus and a byproduct known as slag still linger.

In 2013, the EPA said phosphorus was being detected as deep as 85 feet below the site. Starting in July, crews under the direction of Parsons Corporation, plan to put caps and a three-foot cover of soil over all of the contaminated areas.

“So that that contamination cannot be pushed downwards to the groundwater,” said Paul Yochum, a former FMC plant manager who’s now being consulted about the cleanup effort.

After the caps are put in place, crews hope to grow native plants in the soil, fulfilling the EPA’s remediation requirement.

Later down the road, Yochum said a new industrial facility could call the FMC site home.

“Our goal is to redevelop the property to get jobs back in the area and just keep the economy going on that site,” said Jonetta Everano, who’s overseeing the cleanup.

But not everyone’s sold on this. The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes continue to express fears that the cleanup may be making things worse.

“There is radioactive material within the slag piles and when they’re moved, they become airborne, which therefore, we’re breathing,” said tribes spokeswoman Randy’L Teton.

Everano said they monitor air quality at the site and she said levels are non-life threatening.

“The data itself speaks for itself and the data shows that it is a minimal level of radiation,” said Everano.

The cleanup is expected to be complete by September 2017 at a total cost of $60 million.

Meanwhile, Teton said the tribes plan to install their own monitor at the site.

Once the remediation phase of the cleanup project is complete, any development will be need approval from the EPA as well as state and county governments.

The cleanup site is located just west of Pocatello near the JR Simplot plant in northeastern Power County.

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