Office of Environmental Management

Oak Ridge Breaks Ground on Facility Enabling Large-Scale Y-12 Cleanup

November 21, 2017

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Officials break ground on the Mercury Treatment Facility.
Officials break ground on the Mercury Treatment Facility.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – Lawmakers, environmental regulators, and top DOE officials broke ground on the Mercury Treatment Facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex on Nov. 20. When complete, it will reduce mercury levels in the East Fork Poplar Creek and enable large-scale cleanup and demolition at Y-12. 

   Sen. Lamar Alexander, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, Tennessee Deputy Gov. Jim Henry, DOE Deputy Secretary Dan Brouillette, and EM Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Jim Owendoff attended the event. 

   “This project paves the way for critical infrastructure that will enable our program to begin major demolition at Y-12,” said Jay Mullis, manager of DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of EM (OREM). “We are incredibly grateful for the support we’ve received from our elected officials, and we are eager to get work underway to advance environmental cleanup at one of the nation’s most important national security sites.” 

A rendering of the Mercury Treatment Facility.
A rendering of the Mercury Treatment Facility.

   While Y-12 was initially constructed during the Manhattan Project to explore uranium enrichment, the site began lithium separation for weapons production during the 1950s and 1960s. This process required large amounts of mercury. 

   Mercury flowed through pumps, pipes, valves, and seals at high rates, and an estimated 700,000 pounds were lost into the equipment, buildings, and surrounding soils. The mercury cleanup is EM’s top priority at Y-12.

   The new facility is vital to EM because it opens the door for demolition of Alpha-2, Alpha-4, Alpha-5, and Beta 4 — large, deteriorated, former mercury-use facilities dating to the 1940s. After their removal, EM will remediate the soils beneath them. 

   The facility will limit and control potential mercury releases as crews take down those buildings and address the soils that may disrupt the mercury-contaminated area on the west end of Y-12. When operational, the facility will treat up to 3,000 gallons of water per minute and include a 2-million-gallon storage tank to collect stormwater.

   It will be comprised of two components — a headworks facility and a treatment plant connected by a pipeline. The headworks facility will capture creek flow on the west end of Y-12, remove the grit, and pump water through the pipeline to the treatment plant on the east side of Y-12. The headworks will store excess stormwater collected after large rainfalls.

When operational, the Mercury Treatment Facility will enable cleanup of facilities such as Alpha-4 and Alpha-5, pictured here.
When operational, the Mercury Treatment Facility will enable cleanup of facilities such as Alpha-4 and Alpha-5, pictured here.

   OREM cleanup contractor URS| CH2M Oak Ridge (UCOR) awarded a $1.4-million contract to Knoxville-based GEM Technologies to prepare the site of the facility for construction. OREM will conduct a procurement for a contractor to perform the balance of construction, scheduled to begin in 2018. 

   EM anticipates the facility will begin operations in 2022.

   “We are proud to be part of this new endeavor, which marks a key milestone in DOE cleanup transitioning from East Tennessee Technology Park to sites at Y-12 and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory,” said Ken Rueter, UCOR President and Project Manager.

-Contributor: Ben Williams

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