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Oak Ridge
Site Specific Advisory Board

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Approved October 12, 2011 Meeting Minutes

 

The Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board (ORSSAB) held its monthly meeting on Wednesday, October 12, 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

Janet Hart

David Hemelright

Howard Holmes

Betty Jones

Ed Juarez, Vice Chair

David Martin

Fay Martin

Scott McKinney

Gloria Mei

Ron Murphree

Maggie Owen, Chair

Greg Paulus

Amira Sakalla1

Steve Stow

Thomas Valunas


Members Absent

Jimmy Bell

Bob Hatcher

Charles Jensen, Secretary

Jacob Martin2

Kasey McMaster1

George Roberts

 

1Student Representative

2Second consecutive absence

 

Liaisons and Federal Coordinator Present

Dave Adler, DOE Liaison and Acting Deputy Designated Federal Officer, Department of Energy - Oak Ridge Office (DOE-ORO)

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

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

Melyssa Noe, ORSSAB Federal Coordinator, DOE-ORO

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

 

Others Present

Spencer Gross, ORSSAB Support Office

Norman Mulvenon, LOC Citizens’ Advisory Panel

Pete Osborne, ORSSAB Support Office

 

Seven members of the public were present.

 

Liaison Comments

Mr. Adler – Mr. Adler reported on the status of Recommendation 203: Recommendation on the U-233 Project Re-Examination. He said the board will have a response to that recommendation by the November meeting.

 

He said DOE will try to provide a response to recommendations within 60 days of their issuance.

 

Ms. Cange – John Eschenberg, the board’s Deputy Designated Federal Officer, has been named the Acting Manager for DOE-ORO. Ms. Cange is the Acting Assistant Manager for EM.

 

Ms. Cange said the federal government is operating under a continuing resolution and is expected to operate that way until mid-November. She said that has little impact on EM as projects continue. She said the hope is that Congress will approve the FY 2012 budget before the end of year holidays.

 

The Tank W-1A/Corehole 8 Project is underway and the first box of contaminated soil has been shipped to the Nevada National Security Site for disposal.

 

Demolition of the K-33 Building at East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) has been completed and all debris has been disposed in the on-site waste disposal facility in Bear Creek Valley. The second phase of the project, removal of the building slab and any contaminated soil, is underway.

 

Ms. Cange said the acting Assistant Secretary for EM David Huizenga visited the Oak Ridge Reservation the previous week and toured cleanup projects at ETTP, Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL), and Y-12 National Security Complex.

 

On Tuesday, October 18 DOE-ORO will have a celebration with the Office of Science, the National Nuclear Security Administration, and EM to commemorate the completion of projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The event will be held at Building 2714 from
9-11 a.m. Ms. Cange invited board members to attend.

 

A meeting has been scheduled with the consulting parties to a memorandum of agreement on site interpretation at ETTP with emphasis on the K-25 Building. The meeting will be November 3 at Building 2714.

 

Mr. Murphree asked for more information about the consultation meeting. Mr. Adler said prior to the meeting DOE will issue a plan to the consulting parties proposing what it plans to do regarding historical interpretation of the K-25 Building, as well as a draft memorandum of agreement. If the consulting parties are in agreement about the mitigation plan and the draft memorandum of agreement he said that could be the last meeting of the consulting parties. If there are significant changes to the documents Mr. Adler said there could be another meeting.

 

Mr. Owsley – A notice of determination and response to comments on the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for Y-12 is expected to be issued in November. The information will be available on TDEC’s Division of Water Pollution Control website (http://www.tn.gov/environment/wpc/). Written copies will be mailed to individuals who requested them. Mr. Owsley said he could provide copies of the information to people who had not previously requested it.

 

Ms. Jones – no comments.

  

Public Comment

Mr. Mulvenon said it was important that Mr. Eschenberg was now the acting manager of the Oak Ridge Office. He said Mr. Eschenberg along with Ms. Cange will be instrumental in working towards cleanup of the Oak Ridge Reservation.

 

Mr. Mulvenon said he was disappointed that he heard DOE did not have funding to dispose of some hot cells at ORNL.

 

He said it was important that people attend the consulting parties meeting on site interpretation at ETTP. He encouraged board members to attend the meeting.

 

Presentation

Mr. Adler began his presentation saying the board had provided DOE-ORO a recommendation on Bear Creek Burial Grounds (BCBG) in February 2011. Because there are a number of new board members he thought it would be beneficial to bring everyone up to speed on the topic so there would be good understanding by the board regarding how DOE will respond to the recommendation.

 

At this meeting he said he was going to talk about the history of BCBG, the history of decisions on the burial grounds, history of cleanup actions thus far, and the likely path forward for the burial grounds.

 

The BCBG are located about a mile west of the main industrial complex of Y-12. The Bear Creek Valley area has been used for waste disposition since the Manhattan Project. The area has several waste disposal areas that include the S-3 Ponds, the Oil Landfarm, the Boneyard/Burnyard, the Environmental Management Waste Management Facility, and the BCBG.

 

The BCBG are a collection of disposal pits and trenches. They were active from the 1940s to the early 1990s. This area is responsible for most of the contamination in Bear Creek. The burial grounds have been closed and capped using various methods. The primary environmental challenge in BCBG comes from the part of the burial grounds adjacent to North Tributary 8 (NT-8) of Bear Creek. Mr. Adler said EPA, TDEC, and ORSSAB have asked DOE to look at relatively low-cost interim measures to mitigate contamination leaching into NT-8.

 

Mr. Adler showed photographs of previous waste disposal practices in BCBG (Attachment 1, slides 5 and 6). Slide 7 of Attachment 1 is a photograph of how BCBG looks today. The photograph shows a white concrete blanket that has been placed over an impermeable cap. The reason for the concrete blanket was to minimize any reaction from buried shock sensitive material.

 

Mr. Adler reviewed the history of the BCBG decision process since 1997 (Attachment 1, slide 9). In 1997, DOE, EPA, and TDEC began work to develop a record of decision (ROD) that would define cleanup actions for all of Bear Creek Valley. He said that process has been partially successful with actions to clean up the S-3 Ponds and the Boneyard/Burnyard. But a remedy has not been determined for BCBG. He said the agencies were unable to decide what to do with about 40 million pounds of uranium in BCBG. The options considered range from isolating the material in place to complete excavation and removal. TDEC has concerns about leaving the waste in place without some long-term post-closure care financial assurance. Another unsuccessful attempt to reach a decision was made in 2008. In the 2010-2011 timeframe EPA, TDEC, and ORSSAB asked DOE to find some interim methods to reduce contamination going into Bear Creek. He said in 2012 an analysis of alternatives will be done to look at low-cost, interim measures to reduce contaminant flux from the burial grounds. DOE has said that it will respond to ORSSAB’s recommendation with a list of proposed alternatives, related costs, and expected results.

 

The first ROD signed in 2000 laid out land use objectives for all of Bear Creek Valley. The eastern end of the valley (Zone 3, Attachment 1, slide 10) is not to be restored for general land use and would remain under DOE control. An intermediate area, Zone 2, that begins just west of BCBG, is to be restored to levels for recreational use. For the rest of the valley in Zone 3 that area is to be available for unrestricted use.

 

Mr. Adler said when comprehensive alternatives were considered for BCBG options ranged from full excavation to in-place management including caps, upgradient trenches to divert water going through the waste areas, in situ vitrification, or a combination of approaches (Attachment 1, slide 12).

 

Slide 13 of Attachment 1 shows the various alternatives and related estimated costs. DOE believes hydrologic isolation would be effective and would cost about $21 million. Complete excavation is estimated to cost about $3.3 billion. While DOE believes hydrologic isolation would be effective, Mr. Adler said the state doesn’t want to have 40 million pounds of uranium left in place because of its extremely long half-life.

 

Mr. Adler showed graphs of the contributors of contamination to Bear Creek (Attachment 1, slide 15). It indicates that NT-8 is a significant transporter of contamination into the creek. He also showed a slide indicating the various concentrations of uranium entering the creek at different points (Attachment 1, slide 17). The measurements are in micrograms per liter. He said the safe drinking water standard for uranium is about 30 micrograms per liter. Where the creek leaves the Oak Ridge Reservation to the west the levels are well below safe drinking water standards, about 17 micrograms per liter. At Zone 2 it’s about twice the safe drinking water standards, and at Zone 3 it’s well above standards at about 117 micrograms per liter. At NT-8 the levels are about 10 times safe drinking water standards.

 

Mr. Adler then reviewed some the potential interim remedial measures (Attachment 1, slide 18). There is a collection system in place that was installed to capture leach from BCBG going into NT-8 and Bear Creek. One alternative is to refurbish that sump to improve collection of surface and groundwater. The existing pumps have debris in them and are not working efficiently.

 

A second option is to collect surface and groundwater at NT-8 for treatment. Mr. Adler said the drawback to that option is in the event of a heavy rain the volume of water in NT-8 could overwhelm the collection system.

 

A third interim option is to begin capping and covering the source areas. Other options are noted on slide 19 of Attachment 1. They include in situ grouting of source trenches, groundwater extraction wells to force down upwelling groundwater, which would lessen interaction between waste and the groundwater, and reconsider previously considered options. Mr. Adler said DOE would also consider any ideas EPA and TDEC may have to remediate the area.

 

In summary, Mr. Adler said there is no immediate risk to human health from BCBG. Any risk is being prevented through use restrictions. He said it is possible that some of the interim actions considered may provide cost-effective and workable options to reduce releases.

Results from all the considerations should be available in Spring 2012. He said it’s possible that the interim measures could approximate costs of the lower end comprehensive remedial actions.

 

He also noted, however, that the funding in future years for cleanup on the Oak Ridge Reservation may be limited and that could affect actions in Bear Creek Valley. He said the work at BCBG must be considered with all the other priorities across the reservation. He said there are other environmental challenges on the reservation that are more pressing to human health than those in Bear Creek Valley.

 

After Mr. Adler’s presentation several questions were asked. Following are abridged questions and answers.

 

Mr. Valunas – Is the contamination caused by the water flowing by it or is the water actually carrying the contamination with it? Mr. Adler – It is largely contamination that gets into groundwater and then wells up into the stream. It’s not a situation where you have a creek eroding a uranium contaminated matrix and then those eroded soils falling in the creek and going downstream.

 

Mr. Hemelright – You mentioned this is not one of DOE higher priorities. Has DOE established a priority list of what they would like to have done if the funding was adequate? Mr. Adler – I shouldn’t say it’s not a priority. We are working with the state and EPA to decide what our priorities are. DOE, EPA, and the state could have different priorities. Every year when DOE submits its budget request it presents its integrated priority list that shows ‘if you give us this amount of money this is what we can do with it.’ What we’re trying to do is work with the regulators to make sure what we’re submitting to headquarters reflects a reasonable compromise of everyone’s values.

 

Mr. Paulus – Are there good records of what was disposed in the burial grounds? Mr. Adler – There are surprisingly good records, because all of this material was coming from a defense facility whose primary mission was producing quantities of a highly regulated material, and they had to maintain a high degree of accountability. Mr. Paulus – Will there be any surprises? Mr. Adler – Whenever you dig into a burial ground there are always surprises. They do have a good inventory. You can tell by trench what was disposed there and how much. There are probably better records than you would expect to find from any other industrial facility from that timeframe. That helps us when we try to solve the problem.

 

Mr. Murphree – Isn’t it true that contaminants in Bear Creek exceed the ROD limits but not the safe drinking water standards? Mr. Adler – They do exceed the performance goals that were laid out in the first ROD. They are marginally higher than what we set as performance goals. That’s not a unique situation. We have signed RODs at ORNL and Y-12 where we haven’t met ROD goals, but we’re making steady progress toward them. Ms. C. Jones- There are decisions that were signed where there are performance goals but we didn’t have the timeframe to achieve them. That’s a problem with this ROD. We do have performance goals but we don’t have the timeframe for achievement. A ROD signed today won’t have that omission. In evaluating it through the Remediation Effectiveness Report and the Five-Year Review there may be some opportunities to look at that timeframe. That’s one of the reasons EPA has continually brought this project and issue to the board that we wanted you to address.

 

 Committee Reports

Board Finance & Process – Mr. Paulus reported that the committee met on September 29. The committee learned that the board’s budget for FY 2012 had been cut by $40,000. He said that shouldn’t impact board operations because the new allocation is still more than what was spent in FY 2011.

 

The committee discussed preparations for the FY 2012 annual meeting and some possible bylaws revisions.

 

Mr. Paulus said he was elected chair of the committee for FY 2012 and Mr. Valunas was elected vice chair.

 

The committee will have its next meeting on Tuesday, November 1 at 5:30 p.m. at the DOE Information Center.

 

EM – Mr. Martin reported that the committee met on Wednesday, September 21 and developed its initial work plan. It also provided suggestions to the Executive Committee for Top Three Issues to be presented at the fall EM SSAB Chairs’ meeting.

 

Bob Hatcher and Mr. Martin were elected chair and vice chair, respectively, of the committee.

 

The committee will meet on Wednesday, October 19 and hear a presentation on the progress of demolition of the K-25 Building at ETTP.

 

Public Outreach – Ms. B. Jones reported that the committee met on September 27 and discussed the results of the Public Environmental Survey.

 

The committee discussed outreach ideas brought up at the August annual meeting and updating the board’s exhibit at the American Museum of Science and Energy. The committee reviewed some possibilities for interactive displays.

 

The committee reviewed its six-month planning calendar and reviewed its FY 2011 work plan and FY 2012 work plan.

 

Ms. Jones was re-elected chair of the committee and Mr. Hemelright was elected vice chair for FY 2012.

 

The committee will meet Tuesday, October 25 at 5:30 p.m. at the DOE Information Center.

 

Stewardship – Mr. Stow reported that the committee heard a presentation at its September 20 meeting on the Five-Year Review.

 

The committee also developed its FY 2012 work plan and provided suggested topics for the EM SSAB Chairs’ meeting top three issues for Oak Ridge.

 

Mr. Stow was re-elected chair of the committee for FY 2012 and Mr. Murphree was elected vice chair.

 

The committee will meet on Tuesday, October 18 at 5:30 p.m. at the DOE Information and will review the fact sheet on site transition from cleanup to long-term stewardship at DOE ongoing mission sites.

 

Executive – Ms. Owen reported that the committee met on September 29 and discussed the upcoming EM SSAB Chairs’ videoconference on Thursday, October 20 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The committee decided on the topics to present at the meeting as ORSSAB’s top issues. Those issues focus on the diminished cleanup budgets, both long- and short-term, for DOE-ORO EM. For its major accomplishment the committee chose the issuing of the board’s 200th recommendation. For its major activity the committee chose the establishment of the EM Budget & Prioritization Committee.

 

After the regular committee meeting, the committee went into a work session and reviewed the annual planning meeting. During the work session the committee reviewed the member survey and discussed ways to do things differently for the next annual meeting.

 

The committee will meet on Tuesday, November 1 at 5:30 p.m. at the DOE Information Center.

 

Announcements and Other Board Business

ORSSAB will have its next monthly meeting on Wednesday, November 9, 2011, at 6 p.m. at the DOEIC.

 

Ms. Cange introduced Mr. Holmes and Mr. Valunas as new members to the board.

 

The minutes of the September 14, 2011, meeting were approved.

 

The board approved revisions to the ORSSAB bylaws (Attachment 2).

 

The Recommendation on Automating the Stewardship Verification Process was approved. (Attachment 3).

 

Federal Coordinator Report

Ms. Noe said packets are being prepared to send to DOE Headquarters to seat three additional members on the board.

 

Ms. Noe reminded the group about the EM SSAB Chairs videoconference on Thursday, October 20 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the DOE Information Center.

 

Mr. Martin asked how long it will take to seat the new members. Mr. Adler said it could take from six to 10 weeks. He said it is a multi-step process. Mr. Martin said it seems to take an inordinate amount of time and wondered what the board could do to speed it up. Mr. Adler said he didn’t think there was much the board could do expedite it.

 

Additions to the Agenda

None.

 

Motions

10/12/11.1

Mr. Juarez moved to approve the minutes of the September 14, 2011, meeting. Mr. Paulus seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

10/12/11.2

Mr. Juarez moved to approve the revisions to the bylaws. Mr. Martin seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

 

10/12/11.3

Mr. Stow moved to approve the Recommendation on Automating the Stewardship Verification Process. Mr. Hemelright seconded. During discussion Mr. Paulus moved to strike the phrase web-based in the second paragraph of the recommendation section. Mr. Hemelright seconded and the revised recommendation passed unanimously.

 

The meeting adjourned at 7:33 p.m.

 

Action Items

         Open

  1. Mr. Adler will supply a list of miscellaneous waste on the Oak Ridge Reservation that UCOR has compiled for suggested disposal.
  2. Mr. Adler will get more information on the Non-Classified Oak Ridge Oral Histories.
  3. 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. Carryover from May 11 meeting.
  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 research if the stacks at Oak Ridge National Lab meet applicable seismic standards. Carryover from the November 10 meeting.
  6. 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.

 

Attachments (3) to these minutes are available on request from the ORSSAB support office.