Office of Environmental Management

Paducah Site Develops ‘End Game’ Strategy for Groundwater Contamination

January 9, 2018

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The C-400 Cleaning Building is located near the center of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant site.
The C-400 Cleaning Building is located near the center of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant site.

PADUCAH, Ky. EM’s Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office (PPPO) is seizing an opportunity to tackle the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant’s (PGDP) biggest source of groundwater contamination.

   Since the leased uranium enrichment facilities at the PGDP returned to DOE, EM has worked to integrate environmental remediation and deactivation and demolition of the GDP facilities to address trichloroethylene (TCE), the site’s largest environmental risk.

   The new strategy will accelerate the investigation of all remaining contaminants under and around the C-400 Cleaning Building near the center of the site so EM can remediate the primary source contamination, complete deactivation, and demolish the C-400 building complex.

   “Return of the facilities is a game changer for cleanup at the Paducah Site,” said PPPO Manager Robert Edwards. “Not only will we be able to accelerate at the C-400 building, but we can also place an emphasis on characterizing the uranium enrichment process buildings and preparing the process buildings for future demolition.” 

   TCE, a common industrial degreasing solvent, was used at C-400 to clean parts and equipment in the uranium enrichment process. The solvent went underneath the C-400 building over several decades. 

   The C-400 city block cleanup has received regulatory approval and will be implemented over the next several years. Cleanup of groundwater contamination has been a high priority since offsite contamination was discovered in residential wells during a 1988 sampling event. Soon after, EM provided residential water and extended municipal water service to affected residents. 

   “This new cleanup strategy is a comprehensive approach that takes into account EM’s mission, regulatory agreements, and community input. It allows us to finalize cleanup of the most significant contributor to groundwater contamination,” said Jennifer Woodard, PPPO’s Paducah site lead.

   Commercial uranium enrichment-related operations at C-400 limited PPPO’s ability to fully investigate the amount of contamination underneath the building. Those operations ceased in 2013.

   In the late 1980s, PPPO began pump-and-treat operations in the northwest and northeast areas of the site to prevent and reduce contamination from spreading. Workers treated nearly 4 billion gallons of water.

   A six-phase treatability study was followed by two electrical-resistance heating projects for soils near the C-400 building, and a deep-soil mixing project addressed contamination in the southwest area of the plant. Combined, those projects successfully removed more than 7,500 gallons of TCE.

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