OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – From a more efficient approach for disposing debris to a digital-based monitoring system that helps detect and prevent heat stress, DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) and its contractor UCOR have incorporated dozens of innovative solutions to enhance safety and accelerate the pace of cleanup at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP).
OREM and UCOR advanced ETTP’s cleanup by four years, saving $500 million in taxpayer funds. Most innovations that made this achievement possible involved handling, transporting, and disposing waste.
Critical to the success was the onsite Environmental Management Waste Management Facility for debris and soil generated from cleanup projects. Tearing down hundreds of facilities, many of them spanning numerous football fields in size, created a massive amount of waste.
Projects at ETTP led to more than 1.7 million cubic yards of waste — enough to fill 515 Olympic-size swimming pools — including nearly 30,000 truckloads of soil. Approximately 10 percent of the waste was highly contaminated, and crews separated and sent that waste out of state for disposal. The remaining 90 percent was disposed safely at the onsite disposal facility and landfills. This prevented tens of thousands of cross-country trips that would significantly increase costs and slow the rate of cleanup.
Crews painted contaminated equipment and piping with bright colors to easily recognize and segregate them in the field for offsite disposal. They also repurposed transite panels removed from the largest buildings being demolished and used them as an additional protective layer on top of the onsite disposal facility’s liner.
Waste that met criteria for the onsite disposal facility and landfills was loaded on trucks and shipped using a private road, known as the Haul Road, dedicated exclusively to hauling waste from the cleanup sites to the onsite disposal facility and landfills. By constructing Haul Road, OREM improved efficiency and increased the safety margin, avoiding local highways to ship tens of thousands of truckloads of waste for disposal.
Another strategy that proved successful involved hauling demolition debris away for disposal as it was generated. It resulted in significant schedule efficiencies for projects, and reduced risk of environmental issues associated with not removing the waste immediately.
Other initiatives have focused on worker safety. OREM and UCOR piloted a telemetric heart rate monitoring system to detect and avoid the threat of heat stress for workers in the summer months. The system includes a chest-strap heart rate sensor that operates in conjunction with a tablet device. This added new levels of protection for crews in the field conducting EM’s mission.
A virtual reality training program on aerial lifts has allowed operators to practice motor skills and improve performance in a risk-free environment. OREM and UCOR also introduced a worker alert system that uses transmitters and receivers to alert workers to static or mobile hazards in their immediate areas. Usually affixed to a hard hat, the device vibrates when a potential hazard, such as a large piece of machinery, is nearby.
Through innovations and collaboration, OREM and UCOR have incorporated the latest technologies to keep workers safe, and identified strategies that have enabled them to complete one of the nation’s largest cleanup projects.