August 28, 2018

Followup on Well Decommissioning at the Hanford Site

The goal of the Richland Operations Office Soil and Groundwater Remediation Project is to eliminate the risk of contaminated groundwater reaching the Columbia River using a network of wells to extract contaminates and monitor areas of the Hanford Site.  Remediation support activities may include groundwater well installation, well decommissioning, environmental sampling, and well maintenance.  CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Company (CHPRC) is the contractor responsible for soil and groundwater remediation activities at the Hanford Site.

In January 2005, the Office of Inspector General issued an audit report on Well Decommissioning Activities at the Hanford Site (DOE/IG-0670).  The audit determined that Richland Operations Office lacked a comprehensive Well Decommissioning Plan.  Specifically, the Plan lacked a complete inventory that described the type, age, condition, and location of all wells at the site. Further, the audit found that the well database contained information that was not easily accessed, incorrect, and incomplete.  In response to the previous report, Richland Operations Office developed a comprehensive Well Decommissioning Plan and decommissioned a number of wells using Recovery Act funds.  Richland Operations Office also made significant changes to the well database, the Hanford Environmental Information System (HEIS) and the associated tables within HEIS.  Finally, Richland Operations Office developed the Well Attributes Materialized View to assist in managing well information by providing a visual presentation of the data extracted from HEIS.  The Well Attributes Materialized View displays current attributes of more than 12,000 wells, such as whether a well has been verified as decommissioned or in use, and when a well was last inspected or maintained.  We conducted this followup audit to determine whether the Department of Energy effectively managed the well decommissioning program at the Hanford Site.

Our review determined that the Department effectively decommissioned wells at the Hanford Site.  However, we found that HEIS did not contain all current or relevant information; although, for the 15 wells we reviewed, we found hard-copy documents supporting that well activities had been performed, as appropriate.  Additionally, the Well Decommissioning Plan had not been updated since 2008.

As a result of the weaknesses we identified in this report, we suggest that the Manager, Richland Operations Office direct the contractor to: (1) continue to develop procedures for documenting inspection results in the database; and (2) update the Well Decommissioning Plan.  Documenting well inspections in the database ensures that the Department has promptly identified any wells that are in disrepair.  Wells in disrepair can provide potential pathways for contaminants to reach the groundwater, endangering human health and the environment.  Further, not documenting that wells have been inspected and repaired can lead to delays in sampling and result in increased costs to the groundwater program.  Finally, updating the Well Decommissioning Plan will improve the continuity of the program through contract transition and the development of future databases and systems.

Topic: Environmental Cleanup