Many Voices Working for the Community

Oak Ridge
Site Specific Advisory Board

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Approved May 11, 2011 Meeting Minutes


The Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board (ORSSAB) held its monthly meeting on Wednesday, May 11, 2011, at the DOE Information Center, 475 Oak Ridge Turnpike, Oak Ridge, Tenn., 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

Darryl Bonner

Steve Dixon

Charles Jensen

David Martin

Kasey McMaster1

Ron Murphree, Chair

Gloria Mei

Lance Mezga

Bob Olson

George Roberts

Amira Sakalla1

Steve Stow

Kevin Westervelt, Vice-chair


Members Absent

John Coffman2

Jenny Freeman

Bob Hatcher

Betty Jones

Ed Juarez, Secretary

Ted Lundy

Maggie Owen


1Student Representative

2Second consecutive absence


Deputy Designated Federal Officer (DDFO), Liaisons, and Federal Coordinator Present

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

Pat Halsey, Federal Coordinator, DOE-ORO


Others Present

Daniel Axelrod

Susan Cange, Deputy Assistant Manager for Environmental Management (EM), DOE-ORO

Dick Ketelle, Bechtel Jacobs, Co. (BJC)

Norman Mulvenon

Pete Osborne, IIA

Dale Rector, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation


Twelve members of the public were present.


DDFO and Liaison Comments

Mr. Adler – A new contractor has been selected for the cleanup portion of the DOE-ORO EM mission. The new contractor goes by the acronym UCOR, which is a consortium of URS Corp., CH2M, and RSI. Mr. Adler said there is an aggressive transition schedule to ensure projects continue as seamlessly as possible. The transition should be complete within a couple of months. He said DOE is not seeking any extension requests for work as a result of the transition.


Mr. Mezga asked if it would possible to get a list of jobs that will remain with BJC through completion of the projects. Mr. Adler said not all decisions have been concerning what jobs will remain with BJC, but he said it would be possible to provide that information.


Mr. Westervelt asked when the board would be advised of the completion of work to demolish the K-25 Building at East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP). Mr. Adler said DOE has developed a new baseline that contains estimates for costs and schedules to complete the K-25 demolition. He said that information is currently business-sensitive. He said the new contractor UCOR will produce its own baseline over the next few months.


Mr. Mezga said the K-25 demolition is considered a high-concern project by EM Headquarters related to cost and schedules. He said he’d like to see what DOE is doing to get that project off of Headquarters’ list. Mr. Adler said he was sure that the federal project director Jim Kopotic would be willing to talk to the board about what is being done to address that project.


Mr. Adler said additional work is being done at Tank W-1A at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to ensure that the work can be done safely without any impact to operations at the lab. As a result of the additional enhancements Mr. Adler said it will probably be a couple of more months before work begins to remove the tank and the contaminated soil around it.


Mr. Bonner said since the Tank W-1A project is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act he wanted to know if the project would be funded past the end of FY 2011.Mr. Adler said the Recovery Act required that funds be spent by the end of 2015. He said EM set its own completion date by the end of FY 2011, but said some of the funds can be carried into 2012. He noted that most of the projects in Oak Ridge funded by the Recovery Act will be finished by the end of the current fiscal year.


Mr. Adler reported on one outstanding recommendation from the board (Recommendation 196: Revised Recommendations on Alternatives to Memorialize the K-25 Building at ETTP). He said the response to the recommendation has been signed but has not yet been sent to the board. He said the response says that the recommendations made by the board will be factored into the mitigation plan for historic preservation for the K-25 site. DOE will issue its proposed mitigation plan in the August timeframe and a meeting of signatories and consulting parties to a Memorandum of Agreement regarding K-25 historic preservation will be held shortly after the plan is issued.


Mr. Rector – Mr. Rector was sitting in for John Owsley, TDEC liaison to the board. For the benefit of the new student representatives, Mr. Rector noted a couple projects that TDEC is working on. One is a project where tracking collars are put on deer so they can be monitored for their movements away from burial grounds that hold radioactive waste. He said some deer have been found to be contaminated.


He said another area of interest for TDEC is contaminated groundwater on the Oak Ridge Reservation (ORR) as a result of work during the Manhattan Project and subsequent work in energy and nuclear research. He said those issues will be covered in the presentation for this meeting.


Public Comment

Mr. Mulvenon encouraged members and visitors to attend the ORSSAB EM Committee meeting on May 18 to hear additional information regarding remediation strategies for contaminated groundwater.



Mr. Adler and Mr. Ketelle’s presentation was on groundwater management strategies for the ORR. Mr. Adler began by showing a topographical map of the reservation (Attachment 1, page 2) indicating groundwater contamination plumes in magenta. Mr. Adler said DOE has spent many years and millions of dollars drilling wells to determine where plumes are located. He said defining groundwater plumes is an imprecise science, particularly in geology like the ORR.


Mr. Adler said each of the primary DOE-ORO facilities (ETTP, ORNL, and Y-12 National Security Complex) has groundwater contamination problems. At Y-12 there are plumes that extend to the east and west of the main plant. The plume on the east end of the plant extends off the reservation so groundwater restrictions are in place for lands offsite of the ORR. Mr. Adler said that plume is generally associated with solvents. A containment system has been put in place to capture most of the contamination as it leaves the reservation. To the west a nitrate plume extends 3 miles from the S-3 Ponds in the main part of the plant. The plume contains some uranium and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).


At ORNL there is groundwater contamination in the main part of the lab as well as contamination under the Melton Valley Burial Grounds. That contamination now extends close to the Clinch River. Some low level detections of contamination have been found on the west side of the river.


At ETTP there is groundwater contamination associated with some of the burial grounds in the area.


Mr. Adler said most of the contamination is associated with burial grounds and industrial facilities. He said a substantial amount of work has been done to control the contamination as much as possible. He noted that some of the actions have been successful; others have not been as successful. He said there are still a number of difficult and potentially expensive projects that remain.


Mr. Adler noted DOE’s groundwater protection priorities (Attachment 1, page 3). They are to protect human health and water supplies off the reservation. Onsite priorities include early actions to contain and treat plumes that discharge to surface water and to use source controls to minimize additional contamination.


Decision strategies for groundwater management are included in a number of documents. DOE developed a groundwater strategy in 2004 with input from the regulators (EPA and TDEC). The strategy is found in DOE document DOE/OR/01-2069&D2. Strategies are also found in records of decision (RODs), specific interim decisions and actions, and final groundwater decisions (Attachment 1, page 4). He said the general strategy has been to shut down sources of contamination, deal with problems that appear in streams, and look for ways to reduce in situ plumes. Decisions that have not been made are how far to take subsurface restoration of contaminated groundwater.


At this point Mr. Adler turned the presentation over to Mr. Ketelle. He discussed in more detail the 2004 groundwater strategy, addresses remediation goals in phases (Attachment 1, page 5). Phase I of the strategy is to protect existing resources and mitigate offsite releases and prevent growth of plumes into clean areas. Phase II of the strategy addresses source actions that are not yet complete. Phase III is a final decision mode that has a number of options depending on whether the groundwater is restorable or not.


Mr. Ketelle said that all of the existing groundwater decisions to date have been early actions or are interim decisions (Attachment 1, page 6). All of those decisions have been source removal or source control or protect surface water from contaminated discharges. The chart on page 7 of Attachment 1 shows actions taken in the various strategy phases at a number of locations on the ORR. The dotted lines on the chart indicate actions yet to be taken.


Mr. Ketelle reviewed some past groundwater actions (beginning on page 8 of Attachment). In 1995 trenches in the Solid Waste Storage Area 4 at ORNL were grouted to reduce strontium-90 discharges. The goal was to reduce discharges by 30 percent within three years. Discharges were reduced by 15 percent within two years of the work. Mr. Ketelle said that work has since been replaced by the cap on the storage area and the downgradient collection trench.


Another in situ treatment system was attempted at Y-12 in 2002 that used iron filings to reduce uranium discharges from the S-3 Ponds into Bear Creek (Attachment 1, page 9). That system only worked for a while and was ultimately abandoned in 2007. Since the project was not successful there is still a decision to be made regarding what to do about uranium discharges into Bear Creek.


At ETTP in 1998 a long French drain was installed along Mitchell Branch to remove trichloroethylene contamination near Mitchell Branch (Attachment 1, page 10). That system worked nominally for a time, but eventually iron and manganese fouled the well screens and pumps. The operation was stopped in 2004.


In 1999 a plume containment system was put in place for the Y-12 east end VOC plume to reduce migration of carbon tetrachloride off the reservation (Attachment 1, page 11). Mr. Ketelle said that system has done a good job containing the plume. He said the plume concentrations have been reduced below drinking water standards. This system is still operating and is meeting the goals of the action.


Mr. Ketelle reviewed lessons learned with groundwater treatment systems (Attachment 1, page 13). He then reviewed some ongoing treatability tests in Bethel Valley near ORNL (Attachment 1, page 14) and at ETTP (Attachment 1, page 16). The test in Bethel Valley is to use biostimulation with native microbes to degrade contaminants into non-hazardous compounds. The test will be monitored for about a year to determine effectiveness. At ETTP the process is to use thermal technology to remove dense non-aqueous phase liquids (DNAPL) from bedrock. The expectation is that this process will remove about 90 percent of the DNAPL from the rock.


After Mr. Ketelle’s portion of the presentation, Mr. Adler summarized the presentation (Attachment 1, page 18). He said DOE has worked hard on groundwater problems on the ORR. He said the projects Mr. Ketelle described have cost millions of dollars and continued work could cost tens of millions. He said restoring groundwater is difficult and expensive. He again said DOE’s primary focus is protecting streams because they contain biota and flow off the reservation to public and private lands. As indicated by Mr. Ketelle’s presentation some of the techniques attempted have worked and other haven’t. He said DOE wants to use the best available technology, but the agency doesn’t want to move too quickly using new technology that might not work well.


Mr. Adler stressed that some of the problems with groundwater may not be solvable; large amounts of solvents in bedrock are difficult to extract. That may require long-term monitoring and preventing use of contaminated groundwater in those areas.


He said efforts are underway with TDEC and EPA to implement additional corrective measures in Melton Valley, Bear Creek Valley, and Bethel Valley.


After the presentation a number of questions were asked. Following are abridged questions and answers.


Mr. Mezga – (Referencing the chart on page 7 of Attachment 1) Could you give us some target dates for the final RODs? Mr. Adler – That is a point of discussion now between DOE and the regulators. There was a time when we hoped to have all of the cleanup done in the 2015 timeframe. For a number of reasons, including the addition of a lot of new scope to the program and the funding levels have not been what we hoped they could be, we have longer schedules. We still think it makes sense to control the worst risks first and control sources before going after the residual groundwater contamination. We’ll probably not have final decisions made on most of these until 10 or 20 years from now.


Mr. Murphree – Has the in situ thermal treatment of DNAPL been done at Paducah? Mr. Ketelle – They are using a different technology at Paducah than what we are planning to use in Oak Ridge. This is being used in fractured rock at other locations in the southeast. There has been some successful use in North Carolina in some of the crystalline rock areas there. And it’s currently being used in Tullahoma. We plan to take a trip down there to get some lessons learned from them.


Mr. Bonner – You mentioned that in some instances it may not be feasible to remediate groundwater. That being the case what is the status of groundwater at ETTP? Mr. Adler – That is one instance where we may have a ROD finalized fairly quickly. That’s a parcel of land we’d like to de-federalize and hand over for private development. So we hope to have final decisions made in the next few years for groundwater, both for Zone 1 and the plant proper (Zone 2). I have to stress that the concept of ‘giving it your best shot’ to come up with a way to remediate is a tricky concept. If for instance you come up with a way to restore groundwater under a former gaseous diffusion plant for say $100 million is that practicable, is it worth it? Those are the kinds of decisions that have to be made. The groundwater study on a small portion of the site to determine the efficacy of remediating groundwater is costing in the $5-$7 million range. That gives a sense of what these things can cost. Ten million dollars could build a point of use water treatment plant. It could do a lot of things that might buy more environmental benefit. Mr. Bonner – Throughout the presentation there was mention of water treatment capabilities across the reservation. As some systems go away, how will groundwater be treated? There is a broad range of groundwater being treated but as capabilities go away some decisions will have to be made and resources committed to having that capability. Mr. Adler – Yes, and I would distinguish between groundwater that is being collected in the immediate vicinity of known sources, like downgradient collection trenches from a burial ground, versus groundwater that is out in the valley 100 feet down and is relatively diffuse. For the water collected from source areas, we have enforceable decisions in place that require us to collect and treat for as long as treatment is necessary. So we will have either an existing or new system in place under the decisions we have signed. In effect that will be probably a perpetual care approach.


Ms. Halsey – In the Bethel Valley ROD there was a requirement for a groundwater engineering study. How does that fit into this management strategy? Mr. Adler – The study was done for the purpose of identifying additional areas that are believed to continue to contribute to groundwater contamination problems at ORNL. That study identified areas that should be a high priority for excavation because of the potential to cause additional contamination. A few of those are in the Tank W-1A area that is being addressed. Mr. Ketelle – There are other components of the Bethel Valley Engineering Study that included managing the Corehole 8 Plume, as well as some early work on the East End VOC plume at Y-12. We installed several new wells and did some focused sampling and testing to get on track with the biostimulation approach to managing this pilot test we’re doing on the plume now. Ms. Halsey – If we’re making progress with concerns in Bethel Valley has that strategy been implemented in other watershed RODs? Mr. Adler – It’s shown up differently in different sites. In each of the watersheds there have been some focused actions taken to deal with accessible, remediable problems. So yes, in Upper East Fork Poplar Creek we have capture systems on the east end of Y-12, we have seeps we’re collecting from elsewhere, and we have things going on at ETTP. My personal view is that most of the easy ‘gets’ are being gotten and now we are moving into the more challenging, difficult, expensive longer-term challenges.


Mr. Axelrod – There has been some groundwater contamination from Melton Valley on the west side of the Clinch River so that you have made arrangements for water delivery to replace well water for residents on the west side of the Clinch. Is this the most significant groundwater problem on the reservation, what is the magnitude of the current effort for replacing water supply, what is the projection over the next 20 years of how many homes will be affected, and how much will it cost? Mr. Adler – In terms of threat to an off-site and used water supply, this was one of the more significant ones, perhaps the most significant. The contaminants that have been detected are below drinking water standards. Sometimes they have been detected and other times they have not been detected. We have eliminated exposure hazards by ensuring everyone approximate to the river and downgradient from Melton Valley are on the city utility water supply. We believe that eliminating the well water use on that side of the river may completely eliminate the transfer of contaminants because there is the potential that withdrawal of water on one side of the river changes the flow of groundwater to make it flow under the river. We started with 15 households; we’ve increased it to about 30. We don’t expect that to increase significantly, but if we decide it’s necessary to add more people, we will. We spent about $4 million putting in a monitoring system across the river. We spent about $450,000 putting in new water lines, and we spend $1000-$2000 a month supplying water. Mr. Axelrod – So this would be considered the most significant contamination leaving the reservation? Mr. Adler – I’m hesitant to characterize it as significant. The measured values, which were seen in a small number of wells and in a non-reproducible way, have been at levels below drinking water standards. So it’s not a public health crisis. The VOC plume that exits the east end of Y-12 involves more degradation of more groundwater, but no one there is on a private well. But in Melton Valley on the east side of the river we have reason to believe it’s prudent to put people on city water. We’re certain we’ve taken care of any actual health risks. We hope with the elimination of the private wells we’ll also cut off any driving force to cut off any contamination moving under the river. We plan to add a couple of monitoring locations, but we think we have the situation well in hand. Mr. Axelrod – In your presentation we heard about some expensive, difficult projects to do but we haven’t heard any explanation of those. Could you elaborate? Mr. Adler – I was just referring to taking hundreds of acres, with diffuse contamination hundreds of feet underground, and attempting to restore an entire aquifer in situ. That’s a very difficult thing to do.


Mr. Martin – You might review the agreement DOE made with property owners on the west side of the Clinch River. Mr. Adler – DOE has entered into a five-year lease agreement with the property owners. At the end of five years, if we are interested in continuing to monitor across the river we will probably ask to renew the lease, because as long as we have a plume just on the other side of the river, we’re probably going to have a monitoring system on the east side of the river. If the property changes hands the new owners will be expected to pay for their water bills. But for those who have been inconvenienced by not being able to use their own wells DOE will pay for their water.


Committee Reports

Board Finance & Process – Mr. Dixon reported that plans for the Saturday, August 20 annual planning meeting are proceeding. A draft agenda has been developed, the facilitator has been engaged, gifts for members have been discussed, and plans for a Friday evening meeting have been discussed. The meeting will be held at the Whitestone Lodge near Kingston, Tenn.


EM – Mr. Olson reported that the EM and Stewardship Committees met jointly on April 20 and heard a presentation on offsite monitoring wells in Melton Valley. He said the briefing indicated there was little reason to believe that any contamination was going under the Clinch River from DOE property onto private property. The committee chose not to make a recommendation on the topic.


The committee discussed a possible recommendation on the uranium-233 downblending alternatives at Building 3019 at ORNL. Mr. Olson said a recommendation has been drafted and will be considered at the May 18 meeting.


He said the committee approved a draft recommendation on the Northern Characterization Area just north of Tank W-1A at ORNL.


The committee also approved a draft recommendation on salt removal at the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment.


The committee will meet again on May 18 and the main topic will be more detailed information on remediation strategies for groundwater contamination on the Oak Ridge Reservation.


Public Outreach – Mr. Martin said the committee met on April 26 and discussed the work plan and six-month planning calendar. The committee will meet via teleconference on May 24.


Stewardship – Mr. Bonner said the committee will meet on May 17 and get a briefing on the 2011 Remediation Effectiveness Report.


Executive – Mr. Murphree said the EM SSAB chairs’ meeting has been rescheduled for June 14-16 in Las Vegas, Nev. He said he and Mr. Dixon were planning to attend.

Because there has not been a quorum to discuss recommendations at either the April or May board meetings, Mr. Murphree said a brief board  meeting will be held on Thursday, May 26 at 6 p.m. Members will have the option of coming to the meeting site at the DOE Information Center or teleconferencing. Mr. Murphree said the board will only consider the Recommendation on the FY 2013 DOE-Oak Ridge EM Budget Request, since it is a time sensitive recommendation.


Announcements and Other Board Business

ORSSAB will have its next meeting on Wednesday, June 8, 2011, at 6 p.m. at the DOE Information Center. The presentation will be on the 2011 Remediation Effectiveness Report and CERCLA Five-year Review.


Ms. Cange introduced Ms. McMaster and Ms. Sakalla as new student representatives to the board.


The minutes of the April 13, 2011, meeting were approved.


The EM Project Update table for March/April was distributed (Attachment 2).


Federal Coordinator Report

Regarding the called board meeting on May 26, Ms. Halsey said either the DDFO John Eschenberg or Alternate DDFO Mr. Adler will need to be in attendance. The EM SSAB Charter requires that the DDFO or the alternate attend board meetings.


Ms. Halsey said she would like to have a follow-up meeting with members of the EM Budget & Prioritization Committee to prepare for deliberations on budget prioritizations for FY 2014. She asked staff to coordinate a meeting time with members of that committee.


Additions to the Agenda

No additions.




Mr. Murphree asked that the agenda be revised to delete consideration of recommendations, since there was not a quorum to consider recommendations. Mr. Mezga moved to approve the revised meeting agenda. Mr. Olson seconded and the motion carried unanimously.



Mr. Westervelt moved to approve minutes of the April 13, 2011, meeting. Mr. Olson seconded and the motion carried unanimously.


The meeting adjourned at 8:10 p.m.


Action Items


  1. Mr. Adler will provide a list of jobs that will remain with BJC through completion.
  2. Mr. Adler will ask Jim Kopotic, federal project director for the K-25 Project, to update the board on the status of the project and efforts to get the project off DOE’s high-concern list.
  3. Staff will coordinate a meeting with the EM Budget & Prioritization Committee in preparation for deliberations on the FY 2014 DOE-ORO EM budget request.
  4. Mr. Adler will determine the components of the $19 million a year dedicated to stewardship on the Oak Ridge Reservation. Carryover from September 8 meeting.
  5. Mr. Adler will determine what contaminants escaped from one of the hot cells at the Transuranic Waste Processing Center. Carryover from October 13 meeting.
  6. Mr. Adler will research if the stacks at Oak Ridge National Lab meet applicable seismic standards. Carryover from the November 10 meeting.
  7. Mr. Adler will determine the amount of water and the levels of contamination in the water that goes through the central stack system as a result of condensation or other origins. Carryover from November 10 meeting.



    1.      Mr. Olson will schedule a meeting with Ms. Freeman, Mr. Hatcher, Mr. Stow, and Mr. Dixon to revise the recommendation on the FY 2013 budget request. Complete.

  1. The Environmental Management Committee will take the lead in writing a recommendation on the Uranium-233 Project. Complete.

  2. Staff will add to the work plan an item to develop a presentation for the 2012 Waste Management Symposia. Complete.


Attachments (2) to these minutes are available on request from the ORSSAB support office.