Many Voices Working for the Community

Oak Ridge
Site Specific Advisory Board

4-c logo 100 pixels.JPG (11680 bytes)




Approved April 9, 2008 Meeting Minutes


The Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board (ORSSAB) held its monthly meeting on Wednesday, April 9, 2008, at the DOE Information Center in Oak Ridge, beginning at 6 p.m. A video of the meeting was made and may be viewed by phoning the Information Center at 865-241-4780.


Members Present

Ben Adams

Bill Bass

Darryl Bonner

David Branch

John Coffman

Steve Dixon - Vice chair

Hubert Gibson1

Ashlyn Hall1

Ted Lundy – Secretary

David Martin

Steve Mead

Gloria Mei

Lance Mezga - Chair

Ron Murphree

Tim Myrick

Robert Olson

Sondra Sarten

Steve Stow


Members Absent

Rhonda Bogard2

Charles Jensen

Mike Haygood

Kevin Westervelt


1Student Representative

2Second consecutive absence


Deputy Designated Federal Officer and Liaisons Present

Dave Adler, Liaison, Department of Energy-Oak Ridge Office (DOE-ORO)

Connie Jones, Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA) Region 4

Steve McCracken, Deputy Designated Federal Officer, DOE-ORO Assistant Manager for                      

   Environmental Management (EM)

John Owsley, Liaison, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC)


Others Present

Daniel Axelrod

Martha Berry, EPA, Region 4

Becky Brunton, Spectrum

Jason Darby, DOE-ORO

Luther Gibson, Local Oversight Committee-Citizens Advisory Panel (LOC)

Spencer Gross, Spectrum

Dick Kettelle, Bechtel Jacobs, Co.

Norman Mulvenon (LOC)

Pete Osborne, Spectrum


Nineteen members of the public were present.



White Oak Lake/Embayment and Bear Creek Valley Uranium Disposals

Mr. Darby’s portion of the presentation was on the focused feasibility study and proposed plan for the Bear Creek Burial Grounds (BCBG). He said this issue was first studied about 10 years ago as part of the remedial investigation/feasibility study (RIFS) for the Bear Creek Watershed. The BCBG issue was made as a separate decision. An interim record of decision (ROD) for the Bear Creek Watershed has been signed and Mr. Darby said it was time to re-visit the burial grounds issue.


The burial grounds operated from 1955 to 1993. It received waste from Y-12 National Security Complex, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), K-25 Gaseous Diffusion Plant, and other sources (Attachment 1, page 2). Wastes include uranium metal turnings, liquid industrial wastes, and compounds with a potentially ‘shock sensitive’ hazard. Mr. Darby said about 40 million pounds of depleted uranium is buried there.


When the trenches were dug they were not lined. Since then, some areas have been capped.


Mr. Darby showed a chronology of regulatory events for Bear Creek Valley (Attachment 1, page 8). The milestone date for the focused feasibility study and proposed plan is September 2008.


Mr. Darby showed a Bear Creek Valley Land Use map (Attachment 1, page 9) that indicated three zones in Bear Creek Valley. Zone 3 is most impacted by environmental management activities. That is where the waste cell, commonly known as the Environmental Management Waste Management Facility (EMWMF), and the BCBG are located. Zone 2 is designated for recreational use, even though there is some groundwater contamination. Zone 1 is designated for unrestricted use.


A number of remediation alternatives for the BCBG have been evaluated. Mr. Darby discussed those that were selected from an initial screening (Attachment 1, page 10). An illustration was distributed (Attachment 2) that showed the various remediation alternatives. Alternative 5 has three sub-alternatives (Attachment 1, page 11).


Mr. Darby said when the RIFS for the Bear Creek Watershed was conducted, 13 percent of the uranium flux was from the BCBG (Attachment 1, page 12). Cleanup of the Boneyard/Burnyard in Bear Creek Valley resulted in significant reduction of flux in the NT-3 tributary through the site. However, a 2007 evaluation of uranium flux leaving BCBG and going through the Bear Creek Valley integration point (where the tributary leaves Zone 3 and flows into Zone 2) indicated uranium flux coming from BCBG at 40 percent. Mr. Darby said that increase could indicate there is more uranium leaving the burial grounds than when the RIFS was conducted in 1997. In any case, the amount of flux being detected will have a bearing on the method selected for remediation.


Mr. Darby referenced a handout on the State of Tennessee Guidance Policy on “Perpetual Institutional Controls” on the Oak Ridge Reservation (Attachment 3). The guidance states that when long-term contamination is left in place there must be financial assurance for long-term stewardship. An interim ROD, however, may not trigger the financial assurance requirement.


After Mr. Darby’s presentation there were a number of questions. Following are abridged questions and answers.


Mr. Adams – Is it possible that the 40 million pounds of uranium in the burial grounds will become more valuable as time goes by? Mr. Darby- It’s depleted uranium, so it doesn’t have the same value.


Mr. Myrick – What is the schedule on having the focused feasibility study completed? Mr. Darby – September 30, 2008 for the D1 version.


Mr. Myrick – What triggers the financial assurance for long-term stewardship for Bear Creek Valley that didn’t trigger it for Melton Valley? Was it because Melton Valley was an interim ROD? Mr. Adler – Melton Valley was an interim ROD but it was for a different type of burial ground. The radionuclides in Melton Valley are overwhelmingly fission products, which in a couple of centuries decay into relatively benign constituents. In the case of BCBG, the uranium has an extremely long half-life, which makes it radioactive basically forever. There is, however, a final ROD that will be done for Melton Valley that will deal with some of those issues. There are some long-lived contaminants in Melton Valley. There is also a final ROD to be done for Bear Creek Watershed in addition to the BCBG.


Mr. Olson – What is the ultimate fate of the shock sensitive material? Will it chemically degrade or biodegrade? Mr. Darby – The cap would imply that there is a long-term concern.


Mr. Axelrod – Regarding the uranium, how many curies is that and have any calculations been done to determine how much would reach the public and by what means? Mr. Darby- We don’t have the figures for the amount of curies, but we can get that. As far as how that might affect the public, it is fairly immobile, but we are seeing some movement in the surface water in Bear Creek. Bear Creek goes to East Fork Poplar Creek, which flows to the Clinch River. But because of all the tributaries flowing into those streams the concentrations are non-detectable that far downstream.


Mr. Owsley made several comments on Mr. Darby’s presentation. He said because of the long-term risk of contaminants in BCBG, the state takes the position of assured funding for the area. That led to an agreement among DOE, EPA, and TDEC that a final decision on that area would be made at a later date. Concerning the Melton Valley interim ROD, it states that 95 percent of the risk is from short-lived radionuclides. He said natural attenuation will handle 95 percent of the risk. The remaining 5 percent will be addressed under a final ROD.


He said the potential for an interim decision at BCBG will depend on any short-term benefit for a cap that would outweigh the decision to make a final determination. He said the public would have some input on whether a short-term solution to the contamination coming out of the burial grounds would have merit and if the risk of waste left in place is a reasonable amount of risk the public is willing to accept.


Mr. Owsley pointed out that the radioactivity of the uranium left in BCBG will get worse because daughter elements produced in the decay process will be significantly more radioactive. He said the problem will be made worse by the cap holding the material in place. He said one of the remedies for waste left in place is dilution, not concentration.


Mr. Owsley said any remedy chosen by DOE, EPA, and TDEC will need acceptance by the public, and he asked the board to consider all the proposed remedies and determine which it thinks is the most acceptable.


Mr. Adler’s presentation was on the White Oak Lake and Embayment. He began by showing a map of White Oak Lake in relation to ORNL (Attachment 4). White Oak Lake has received contaminated water and sediments from the Melton Valley burial grounds and from ORNL operations. Two dams were built to slow water coming down White Oak Creek to allow sediments to settle before the water flowed into the Clinch River.


Mr. Adler said White Oak Lake has contaminated sediments that are covered by relatively clean sediment. One method of cleaning up the lake is simply to monitor it over the long-term and allow time to remedy the problem. Another option is to excavate contaminated sediments, which would be very expensive and generate a large volume of contaminated waste material.


The decision on what to do about the lake is scheduled for about 2016. Mr. Adler said remediation work still needs to be done upstream of the lake at ORNL and time should be given to determine the effectiveness of the Melton Valley remediation before deciding what to do about White Oak Lake. Coupled with the White Oak Lake decision would be decisions about adjoining floodplains.


Considerations for the remedy will include technical feasibility, costs, and impacts to habitat.


After Mr. Adler’s presentation a number of questions were asked. Following are abridged questions and answers.


Mr. Dixon – What are the contaminants in the lake? Mr. Adler – Overwhelmingly strontium and cesium. There is also chemical contamination you would expect to see from an industrial site.


Mr. Martin- Is there any contamination in the embayment? Mr. Kettelle – There was an estimate of 300 curies in the bed sediments of White Oak Lake when the remedial investigation was done. That is down to about 200 now. There was an 11-curie estimate for the embayment, so it’s down to about 7 ½ or 8 curies.


Mr. Bonner – What is the schedule for the RIFS, proposed plan, and ROD for White Oak Lake? Mr. Adler – I’ll find out for certain, but I believe the RIFS would be done in the 2016 timeframe and the final ROD a year or so afterwards. Mr. Owsley – To clarify, the state expects to have the RIFS done in 2012 and the final ROD in 2015. But this does not appear in DOE’s lifecycle baseline and it’s not clear where those funds would come from if anything other than no action was proposed for White Oak Lake. The state would appreciate the board’s consideration of that fact.  The sediments are of perpetual concern and will have to be protected, even though the surface water may be clean and will have to have assured funding if the material is left in place. Mr. Mezga – Is there any information on the nature and quantity of the long-lived isotopes in the sediment? Mr. Adler- Yes. I don’t have that information but as we get closer to a decision that information will be readily available.


Mr. Bonner – My understanding is the goal for the surface water to reach drinking water standards. Given the work that is to be done in Bethel Valley are there any projections on what impact that work will have on the fluxes and the quality of water? Mr. Adler- You’re correct the goal after Melton Valley and Bethel Valley remediations are complete is to have the water from White Oak Lake and the embayment entering the Clinch River to be basically drinking water quality. The steps taken in Melton Valley are already having a significant positive impact on those flux rates. We are seeing the types of results we had hoped for. It is possible that the goal for the water quality entering the Clinch River will be met without any engineered activities in White Oak Lake and the embayment. Mr. Bonner- What is the timeframe to evaluate the data to determine the impacts before making the final RODs? Mr. Kettelle – The 2008 Remediation Effectiveness Report indicates we have met the Melton Valley goals for surface water quality at White Oak Dam. We have met the protectiveness of the Clinch River for the public drinking water supply with respect to radionuclides. We observed downward concentrations during the construction period during the Melton Valley remediation and we saw no exceedences of the ROD goal at White Oak Dam during fiscal year 2007. So the ROD actions are working as well or better than expected even after such a short duration after completion.


Mr. Bonner – You (Mr. Adler) mentioned a certain amount of time for natural attenuation. What is the timeframe for that? Mr. Adler – The same time as for Melton Valley itself. Same isotopes; same half-lives. Mr. Owsley – The state has developed a policy on natural attenuation that says if natural attenuation will occur in a reasonable amount of time then assured funding is not necessary for institutional controls that would be required sufficiently long enough to allow the risk to naturally attenuate. The state’s calculations are based on half-lives of 60-70 years and natural decay to be seven or eight half-lives for the material to completely attenuate. That puts it at about 300 years. So from the state’s perspective 300-400 years is a reasonable time for institutional controls to exist without assured funding. But there is an extreme difference between 400 years and 4.5 billion years, which is the half-life of uranium.


Mr. Axelrod – Are the White Oak Lake dam and embayment dam made of concrete? Mr. McCracken – The White Oak Lake dam is an earthen dam with a concrete weir. The dam is inspected annually [by DOE and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission]. Mr. Adler – The embayment is of copper sheet and piling construction.


Mr. Axelrod – In the event of very heavy rainfall or hurricane, what could be stirred up from the sediment? It might be helpful every year to sample the sediment to see how much clean sediment is coming in on top of the contaminated sediment. And also what are the consequences of dam failure? What is the probability of sediments coming out instead of overflowing water? Would it be reasonable to put in a concrete dam to supplement the earthen dam? Mr. Adler – It is a well-inspected and maintained dam. It does have as a second line of defense a coffer dam. In the unlikely event of the White Oak dam failing any sediments would likely settle out [in the embayment]. Mr. Kettelle – In the 1980s the University of Tennessee Department of Civil Engineering did a safety analysis of the dam. There was a concern about a potential sliding failure during an extreme flood event. A large rock tow was placed against the dam on the downstream side to protect against failure during a big flood. Documentation is available to indicate that risk is mitigated through modification of the structure. Mr. McCracken – The other primary failure mode for an earthen dam is over-topping of the dam. The primary reason we put in the outfall structure (weir) was to guarantee that would not occur.


Deputy Designated Federal Officer and Liaison Comments

Steve McCracken – Mr. McCracken reported that fuel from the Molten Salt Reactor has been successfully removed. The material is now being moved to Building 3091 at ORNL.


He also reported that a partial resolution has been achieved in the dispute between DOE and EPA and TDEC concerning milestones in Appendices E and J in the Federal Facility Agreement (FFA). Some milestones have been reset. There are four milestones that are still in dispute that will go to the Senior Executive Committee of the FFA for consideration. He said they are milestones that cannot be funded within the targets for FY 2008-2010.


Dave Adler – Mr. Adler reported on the status of several outstanding recommendations:

Recommendation 158: Recommendation on the EMWMF Explanation of Significant Difference for Leachate Management Information Sheet – DOE has met with EPA in Atlanta regarding leachate management in the EMWMF. Some questions remain that will be addressed in a white paper provided by EPA. The response is being prepared and will likely be sent by the May board meeting.


Recommendation 160: Recommendation on Independent Verification of Locations of Waste Sites in Melton Valley – The response is prepared and ready for release requiring only Mr. McCracken’s signature. Mr. Adler said that recommendation will be declined saying existing surveys are adequate.


Recommendation 163: Recommendation for EM SSAB Participation in the EM Budget Process (EM SSAB recommendation) – On January 18, 2008, DOE Asst. Secretary James Rispoli issued a letter conveying the eminent release of clarifying guidance for the SSAB’s participation. On February 22, 2008, Deputy Secretary Mark Frei sent a letter that contains clarifying guidance to guidance issued last fiscal year. The clarifying guidance has been provided to DOE field managers. Issuance of the clarifying guidance closes the recommendation response.


Recommendation 164: Recommendation on Engineering and Technology Development on the Oak Ridge Reservation – The response has been written and is in the concurrence chain.


Recommendation 165: Recommendation on Conducting Future Verifications of Cleanup – The response has been assigned, but is not yet written.


Recommendation 166: Recommendation on Preparing Future Explanations of Significant Differences – The response has been assigned, but is not yet written.


Recommendation 167: Recommendation on Historic Preservation of K-25 Building at East Tennessee Technology Park – The recommendation has been assigned, but an answer has not been determined.


Connie Jones – Ms. Jones reported that Ms. Berry will be leaving the Oak Ridge project and is going to work on the Savannah River Site project for EPA.


John Owsley – Mr. Owsley reiterated Mr. McCracken’s comments about the dispute resolution. He also said in addition to the disputed milestones for 2010, the potential concern for long-range planning dates being confined to DOE target levels is an issue that will be raised to the Senior Executive Committee of the FFA.


Public Comment

Mr. Mulvenon advised members of the board to become well informed regarding decisions to be made on BCBG.


Mr. Axelrod provided copies of his platform for his candidacy for president (Attachment 5).


Mr. Gibson said the topic of exposure to radiation in ambient air to individuals on the Oak Ridge Reservation as discussed at the March meeting during the presentation on the Annual Site Environmental Report is something that is getting more nebulous as facilities are leased and transferred on the reservation. He felt it was a topic the board should follow. He provided an email response to one of his questions from Patricia Scofield at ORNL (Attachment 6).


He reminded the board that a couple of questions were asked regarding radiation doses and  ambient air monitoring that still needed to be answered (See closed action items 3 and 4 below. Answers to those questions were received after this meeting).


Mr. Mezga and Mr. McCracken agreed that while the topic was something that should be monitored it might not necessarily be within the scope of the board’s charter to provide comments or recommendations since it is not strictly an EM topic.


Announcements and Other Board Business

ORSSAB will have its next meeting on Wednesday, May 14, at 6 p.m. at the DOE Information Center. The presentation will be a report on the submittal of the Integrated Facility Disposition Project CD-1 document.


The minutes of the March 12, 2008 meeting were approved.


Mr. McCracken presented outgoing student representatives Mr. H. Gibson and Ms. Hall with plaques for their service.


The Recommendation on the FY 2010 DOE-Oak Ridge Environmental Management Program Budget Request was approved.


The Recommendation Supporting the Establishment of an Oral History Program for the Oak Ridge Reservation was approved.


Committee Reports

Board Finance & Process – Mr. Adams reported that the board’s budget is on target. He reported that funds had been authorized for Ms. Sarten to travel to the Environmental Justice Conference in Washington, DC in May. Mr. Adams said Mr. Dixon has taken responsibility for the flower fund.


Mr. Branch reminded the board that the annual retreat will be August 9 at the Whitestone Inn near Kingston, Tenn. The meeting will begin at 8:30 a.m. Ms. Brunton said arrangements were being made to take a multi-passenger vehicle to the retreat for those who may not want to drive to Whitestone.


EM – Mr. Murphree said the committee at its March meeting worked on some of the language on the recommendation on 2010 budget request that was approved at this meeting. The committee also discussed the January 9 board presentation on the Waste Disposition Strategy. Mr. L. Gibson was assigned to work on a recommendation on the Waste Information Management System. The committee approved a draft recommendation on the RIFS for East Tennessee Technology Park. That recommendation will come before the board in May. The committee also submitted suggestions for the top three EM issues facing Oak Ridge to be presented at the April EM SSAB chairs’ meeting in Hanford Washington, April 22-24.


The committee will meet Wednesday, April 16 and the presentation will be an update on the Building 3019 project at ORNL.


Public Outreach – Mr. Bass reported that he made two presentations at Roane County High School in March. One of the next student representatives will come from Roane County High. Mr. Bass also made a presentation to the Oak Ridge Rotary Club on April 3. Steve Stow will make a presentation to the Oak Ridge Lions Club on April 28 at 6:30 p.m.


Mr. Bass reminded the board that an ORSSAB booth will set up at the Earth Day celebration Saturday, April 12 from noon to 5 p.m. at the Oak Ridge Civic Center.


Stewardship – Mr. Bonner reported the committee discussed the FY 2007 Remediation Effectiveness Report. He said additional discussion will be held on the new format and readability of the document at the April 15 meeting.


The committee approved the request for Ms. Sarten to attend the Environmental Justice Conference in May in Washington, DC.


The committee also submitted its suggestions for the top three issues facing Oak Ridge to be presented at the April EM SSAB chairs’ meeting.


At the April meeting the committee will discuss land use control implementation plans for Bethel Valley and get an updates on the long-term stewardship directive and Melton Valley deed restriction notices.


Stewardship Education Subcommittee – Ms. Sarten said several committee members were not present at the March meeting so work scheduled that day for Stewardship Education Resource Kit revisions has been rescheduled for the April meeting.


Executive – Mr. Mezga reported that the committee approved the expenditure request to pay Roane State Community College to evaluate and rank applications for board membership.


The committee approved travel requests for Ms. Sarten’s trip to the 2008 Environmental Justice Conference in Washington, D.C., and for Mr. Dixon and Mr. Lundy to attend the chairs’ meeting in Hanford, Washington. (Travel for Mr. Bonner to the chairs’ meeting was approved in a called meeting of the Executive Committee this evening.)


The committee reviewed all the suggested topics from the committees and selected three as the top issues for Oak Ridge to be presented at the EM SSAB chairs’ meeting. They are:

1.       Funding for Completion of Critical Milestones and Commitments

2.       Planning and Implementation of Long-term Stewardship for Continuing Mission Sites

3.       Funding for Completion of the Remaining Cleanup Mission Not in the Current Baseline


Mr. Mezga reminded the board that a tour of western waste disposal sites is being planned for the summer. Any board member interested in going on the tour should contact Mr. Osborne.


Mr. Osborne asked that if board members need to communicate with other board members they may do that directly with the members and not through staff if the issue isn’t something staff need be involved in. Board rosters are included regularly in meeting packets, which includes phone numbers and email addresses of all members.


Mr. Mezga encouraged Mr. Lundy and Mr. Myrick to continuing acting as mentors for the student representatives, as two new students will be joining the board in May. Anyone else interested in mentoring students is welcome to do so.


Mr. Mezga asked committee chairs to review work plans and make sure they are on schedule.


Mr. Coffman made an oral report on his trip to the Waste Management Symposium in Phoenix. He said the big change in the conference was the move from Tucson to Phoenix, which made attending session easier. A theme of the meeting he noted was that EM work for contractors had slowed down nationwide but there was also anticipation that more work and procurements were coming.


Federal Coordinator Report

Mr. Adler reported for Pat Halsey. He said about 40 applications for board membership have been received.


Additions to the Agenda





Mr. Adams moved to approve the agenda. Mr. Stow seconded and the motion passed unanimously.



Mr. Lundy moved to approve the minutes of the March 12, 2008 meeting. Mr. Mead seconded and the motion passed unanimously.



Mr. Myrick moved to approve the Recommendation on FY 2010 DOE-Oak Ridge Environmental Management Program Budget Request. Mr. Mead seconded and the motion passed unanimously.



Mr. Stow moved to approve the Recommendation Supporting an Oral History Program for the Oak Ridge Reservation. Mr. Martin seconded and the motion passed with 15 voting ‘yes,’ and one abstention (Mr. Mead).


The meeting adjourned at 8:45 p.m.


Action Items


  1. Ms. Halsey will report to the board the outcome of the meeting with EPA related to Recommendation 158 on the ESD for Leachate Management at the Environmental Management Waste Management Facility. Status. DOE has met with EPA in Atlanta regarding leachate management in the EMWMF. Some questions remain to be addressed in a white paper to be provided by EPA. Plans are to respond soon to this recommendation and attach the white paper.
  2. Ms. Halsey will check on the status of Recommendation 154 with Melissa Nielson at DOE Headquarters. Carried over from November 14, 2007.
  3. Mr. Adler will find exact milestone dates for RIFS, proposed plan, and ROD for White Oak Lake remediation.
  4. Mr. Adler and Mr. Darby will determine the amount of curies measured in Bear Creek Valley.



  1. Mr. Stow will submit a minority opinion to the Recommendation on Historic Preservation of the K-25 Building at East Tennessee Technology Park. Complete. A minority opinion was included with Recommendation 167 on Historic Preservation of K-25 Building at East Tennessee Technology Park
  2. Board Finance & Process will take over administration of the flower fund. Complete. Mr. Dixon has accepted responsibility to manage the flower fund.
  3. Mike Coffey will provide radiation dose limits for personnel working in transferred facilities. Complete. See Attachments 6 and 7.
  4. Ms. Hughes will have Jim Wolfe provide an explanation of how air monitoring permit levels are determined for each facility. Complete. See Attachment 8.


Attachments (6) to these minutes are available on request from ORSSAB support office.