Office of Environmental Management

Role of Soil Remediation Grows as Oak Ridge Buildings Come Down

February 27, 2018

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Soil excavation in the Poplar Creek area at East Tennessee Technology Park.
Soil excavation in the Poplar Creek area at East Tennessee Technology Park.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – Soil remediation has become a larger part of cleanup at East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) since workers safely demolished many of the contaminated and unneeded buildings at the former uranium enrichment complex.

   EM’s goal is to convert ETTP into a private-sector industrial park to benefit the region economically. Finishing major soil remediation is one of the final requirements before DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) can complete cleanup and transfer the site from government ownership. 

   OREM and contractor URS|CH2M Oak Ridge (UCOR) are responsible for surveying and analyzing the 2,200-acre area that comprises ETTP. Zone 1 is a 1,400-acre area outside the main plant, and Zone 2 is an 800-acre area that comprises the main plant area. 

   Teams sample the soil at varying depths and locations to determine where contamination exists from previous operations and the extent of contamination. If results show contamination levels that exceed regulatory limits, the soil is excavated and replaced with clean fill. Most sites are then seeded and returned to grassy fields. 

A project underway on the footprint of K-25, which was once the world’s largest building and one of EM’s largest cleanup projects.
A project underway on the footprint of K-25, which was once the world’s largest building and one of EM’s largest cleanup projects.

   So far, OREM has remediated approximately 200,000 cubic yards, or approximately 16,000 truckloads, of soil at the site. Most soils are low-level waste and can be disposed in special facilities on the Oak Ridge Reservation. Certain soils with higher contamination are shipped offsite for disposal.

   UCOR employees conduct excavation at locations throughout the main plant area. Workers recently remediated areas near the former K-25 Building and Poplar Creek. They are also remediating soils on the actual footprint of K-25, which was once the world’s largest building and one of EM’s largest cleanup projects.

   “While building demolitions create the most visible changes, soil cleanup is vitally important to remove risks, protect the environment, and ultimately to complete the total cleanup effort at ETTP,” said Karen Deacon, acting ETTP portfolio federal project director.

   A major upcoming effort involves sampling the footprint of the K-29 Building, one of the five former gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment buildings at ETTP. That area is currently covered with asphalt and houses several worker trailers. UCOR is transitioning employees to different offices to remove the trailers and asphalt and explore the soil beneath.

   “ETTP is in a constant state of change, and the end result will be a cleaner, privatized site that is available for reuse and serves as an asset to the community,” Deacon said.

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