ETTP Powerhouse Site Primed for Future Recreational Use

Source: EM Update | Vol. 13, Issue 25; Contributor: Wayne McKinney | June 29, 2021

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Crews used more than 2,000 truckloads of topsoil to recontour a portion of the former Powerhouse Area at Oak Ridge. UCOR employees identified an innovative approach to avoid costs and enhance efficiency by grading down a nearby ridge to obtain soil for the work.

Once home to a massive power plant and oil tanks, the former Powerhouse Area at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) is now a clean, grassy field primed for future recreational use.

The Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) and cleanup contractor UCOR recently backfilled and contoured a 21-acre section of the area previously used as a scrapyard. EM removed the 50,000 tons of scrap metal and contaminated soil there more than a decade ago.

The recently completed project directs stormwater to wetlands and the nearby Clinch River. Transforming and recontouring the site, which is proposed for recreational development, required more than 6,000 truckloads of backfill and 2,000 truckloads of topsoil.

The project follows a similar one earlier this year in which workers placed a 2-foot soil cover on an adjacent 9-acre area that housed oil tanks also associated with the former powerhouse. Employees used an innovative GPS system on both projects to ensure appropriate soil placement and contouring.

“UCOR’s workforce again has proved that they are some of the most hardworking and innovative individuals that perform this type of cleanup work,” said Hoss Brown, enterprise manager for Heritage Center, which is the former ETTP site. “I am grateful to be associated with this workforce.”

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A view of a 21-acre portion of the Powerhouse Area at Oak Ridge where workers backfilled, contoured, and hydroseeded. This land is being proposed for future recreational development.

Given the large amount of soil required to complete the latest project on the 21-acre site, employees identified an innovative approach to avoid costs and enhance efficiency. They graded down a nearby ridge to access soil for recontouring. This approach eliminated costs associated with buying soil, enhanced efficiency by using trucks from UCOR opposed to an outside vendor, and created more useable acreage by reducing the grade of the adjacent ridge.

As with EM’s other soil remediation projects at ETTP, completing this effort enables EM to transfer land from federal ownership for reuse by the community.

Last year, EM finished demolishing all former buildings at ETTP, the former Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant. Several excavation projects are underway to remove contaminated soil from various locations at the site and replace it with clean dirt — resulting in property available for industrial and recreational development. The powerhouse powered early operations at the former uranium enrichment site.

The latest remediation efforts are some of the final stages needed to reach EM’s vision for the site as a multi-use industrial center, national park, and conservation area.