Category Archives: TDEC

Emergency drill at Y-12 on Wednesday

y12security2An emergency management exercise will be held Wednesday (June 8) at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge, and the public is alerted that some off-site activities — such as environmental sampling — are part of the drill.

The exercise will involve personnel from the National Nuclear Security Administration and Consolidated Nuclear Security — the government’s managing contractor at Y-12 — as well as emergency responders from federal, state and local entities. Continue reading

State posts fish advisory on Bear Creek

Decades after discharges from the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant polluted local waterways, the state has decided to post a do-not-eat-the-fish advisory on Bear Creek because of increasing public access to a lower stretch of the creek.

“Eating fish with elevated levels of mercury and PCBs is a risk Tennesseans can avoid,” Tisha Calabrese-Benton of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation said in a statement released by the state agency. Continue reading

State playing hard ball on DOE’s proposed plans for nuke landfill in Oak Ridge

k25building_MPIn correspondence and meetings with the U.S. Department of Energy over the past year, the state has raised numerous issues and concerns regarding DOE’s plans for a new nuclear landfill in Oak Ridge.

The landfill proposal has become increasingly controversial, underscored by critical comments — including concerns that the addition of more radioactive waste will taint the town’s image as a dumping ground — approved earlier this week by Oak Ridge City Council and echoed by the Anderson County Commission.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is pushing DOE to consider other Oak Ridge sites beyond the agency’s preferred one, which is adjacent to an existing landfill on the government reservation and only 650 yards from the city boundary.

“We are continuing to work with the DOE and EPA on this issue and taking the matter very seriously,” Kelly Brockman, communications chief for TDEC, said in an email response to questions. Continue reading

DOE’s groundwater sampling program identifies elevated contaminants in 3 wells

doeAs part of expanded groundwater studies sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, contractors identified contaminants that exceeded drinking water standards in 3 of 36 private wells that were sampled on property across the Clinch River from DOE’s Oak Ridge reservation.

A couple of the wells had elevated levels of lead, and two of them had “exceedances” for certain types of radioactivity, according to a summary of the preliminary results that DOE Environmental Manager Sue Cange sent to Roane County Executive Ron Woody. Continue reading

Eco-manipulation has positive results at Oak Ridge pond

IMG_4579News Sentinel photographer Adam Lau takes some pictures at the renovated P-1 pond near East Tennessee Technology Park.

Environmental scientists gave Mother Nature a makeover and — five years later — the results are looking pretty.

A 25-acre pond that was oftentimes brown and mostly devoid of plants, thanks to the work of hundreds of grass carp that ate anything green and stirred up the bottom sediments laden with PCBs, now has clear water and a surface that’s alive with blooms of the American lotus and other aquatic plants.

More importantly, the polychlorinated biphenyls are now buried in the sediments and not so accessible, and the contamination in fish is going down, apparently headed toward acceptable levels. Continue reading

State warns DOE of ramifications of Oak Ridge cleanup funding concerns

tru3The state of Tennessee has historically worked cooperatively with the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge operations on cleanup issues and has adjusted project schedules and milestones because of technical complexities and budget shortfalls.

However, a state official earlier this year warned DOE that the agency’s Oak Ridge budget request for Fiscal Year 2016 puts the deadlines in the Federal Facilities Agreement “in jeopardy” and may force the state to take actions — such as adding more enforceable milestones — to “assure an acceptable level of funding” for cleanup in Oak Ridge. Continue reading

How long will it take to clean up Oak Ridge?

IMG_4340DOE’s David Adler, shown here at the K-31 demolition site, said Oak Ridge is receiving strong support for its cleanup priorities.

The Department of Energy environmental cleanup program has been an evolving effort since the early 1980s, when the legacy of pollution from the World War II and Cold War nuclear weapons work came to the public’s attention in a big way.

Since then, billions of dollars have been spent on clean up projects in Oak Ridge, and there have been efforts by DOE — prodded by the enforcement powers of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation — to comply with the nation’s environmental laws and schedule the necessary (and extremely expensive) projects.

When will it all be completed? Continue reading

What to do with White Oak Lake?

IMG_4360Warning signs at the fenceline restricting access to White Oak Dam, which separates White Oak Lake, pictured below right, from the Clinch River.

IMG_4361More than 30 years ago, when the magnitude of pollution problems on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge reservation was just becoming apparent, White Oak Lake was dubbed the nation’s, if not the world’s, most radioactively polluted body of water.

The 25-acre lake was created during the World War II Manhattan Project to collect radioactive discharges from Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s nuclear operations. The construction of White Oak Dam backed up White Oak Creek and prevented the nuclear wastes from flowing directly into the Clinch River and downstream reservoirs.

Much of the worst stuff settled into the lake’s sediments.

That, of course, reduced the potential exposures to downstream dwellers, but it created an environmental problem all its own. Continue reading

DOE says meeting with environmental regulators ‘productive’ on mercury dispute

mercurysignRepresentatives from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management met April 21 with counterparts from the Environmental Protection Agency (Region IV) and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. The meeting was an attempt to resolve a formal dispute over plans for a new mercury-treatment facility at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant.

According to Mike Koentop, the executive officer of DOE’s environmental team, the meeting was “productive.” Continue reading