A Tale of Two Waste Sites


Deborah Green

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 9-26-2019


Once upon a time, a consulting geologist was contracted to evaluate a site for a low-level radioactive waste facility. The geologist summarized the regional and site-specific geology and hydrology. He discussed potential consequences depending on how the facility would be operated. If waste containers maintained their integrity and trenches were covered, the site had a high probability of functioning safely and effectively. Unfortunately, the tale of that waste site is fictional.

The non-fictional waste site has the same opening chapter, but the operational constraints outlined by the geologist were not followed. Low-level radioactive wastes and hazardous wastes were co-disposed in 52 trenches. Waste containers were breached as they settled, and precipitation collected in the trenches. Leachate flowed from the site, eventually daylighting on hillsides and in creeks. We’ll talk about how more sites can have happy endings when the story the geology tells is heeded.

Streaming Media


Deborah Green worked as an environmental and engineering geologist for 34 years in consulting and industry. She earned a B.S. in geology from the University of Rochester and an M.S. in engineering geology from Texas A&M University. She recently completed a novel loosely based on her late husband’s work as Chief Foundation Geologist for a large dam in Turkey. Read her essays at www.geologistwriter.com.