Source: EM Update | Vol. 11, Issue 30; Contributor: Ben Williams | Aug. 6, 2019


Equipment removes more than 4,000 cubic yards of soil for disposal from an Oak Ridge Site facility where it had been stored since 1989.

DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) coordinated with regulators and partnered with small businesses to complete a soil disposal project for $1.2 million — nearly $75 million under its original estimated budget.

EM crews disposed 4,071 cubic yards of soil that had been in storage since 1989, resulting from the closure of oil retention ponds. The ponds were constructed decades earlier to collect oils, preventing them from seeping from belowground waste sites to nearby surface streams.

“This project highlights the value of critical thinking, coordination, and oversight,” OREM Manager Jay Mullis said. “Our employees did a tremendous job identifying a solution that advanced our cleanup progress and used tax dollars responsibly.”

During the closure project in 1989, the soil from the oil retention ponds was labeled as containing solvents based on the contents of the belowground waste sites near the soil retrieval location. The presence of solvents would require treatment and disposal offsite, a significant cost reflected in the original budget.

Years later, reviews of the original sampling data revealed the need for new samples and analysis to determine the appropriate path to address the soil. OREM contracted with small business Alliant Corporation to conduct that work. Results of the sampling revealed that the soil, spanning a facility the size of an Olympic-sized swimming pool, did not contain solvents.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation agreed with OREM’s technical basis for eliminating the previous requirements to treat the soil, and allowed OREM to safely dispose most of it onsite.

With the change, OREM awarded a contract to small business Cherokee National Environmental Solutions to complete the soil disposal project.

In February this year, workers finished disposing 4,050 of the 4,071 cubic yards of soil onsite. The remaining 21 cubic yards of soil did not meet the site’s waste acceptance criteria for onsite disposal. Workers packaged and shipped that portion offsite for disposal last week.

“This approach resulted in state and federal agencies finding the best path, partnering with a small business to address a longstanding need, and completing a project tens of millions of dollars below original estimates,” Mullis said.

The removal of soil paves the way for OREM to reuse the building where the soil was stored. Workers conducted sampling to confirm the facility is safe for future projects. OREM expects to use the facility for research on waste treatment and cleanup at the Y-12 National Security Complex.