April 9, 2013 

The Department of Energy's Use of the Environmental Management Waste Management Facility at the Oak Ridge Reservation

The Environmental Management Waste Management Facility (EMWMF) is an above-ground waste disposal facility designed to meet the requirements of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA).  The Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) manages the Department of Energy's (Department) contract with URS | CH2M Oak Ridge, LLC (UCOR), which has operated EMWMF since August 2011.  We found that OREM had not maximized its use of available capacity at EMWMF, and as a consequence, may incur more than $14 million in unnecessary disposal costs.  Specifically, OREM permitted its contractors to send minimally contaminated waste to EMWMF that may have otherwise been acceptable for disposal in the sanitary landfill at a much lower cost per unit.  For example, contractor officials told us that from fiscal years 2002 through 2011, they had disposed of 140,000 cubic yards of material (minimally contaminated waste plus required fill) at EMWMF that likely could have been disposed of in the sanitary landfill at a much lower cost per unit.  The Department of Energy (Department) had not established site-specific surface authorized limits for determining when certain types of minimally contaminated waste could be disposed of in sanitary landfills rather than in EMWMF.  In the absence of such site-specific authorized limits, certain surface­contaminated wastes have been disposed of at EMWMF that potentially could have been safely disposed at sanitary landfills.  Maintaining this approach could ultimately and unnecessarily utilize 11 percent of EMWMF's waste disposal capacity.  During the course of our audit, UCOR recognized the issues we discovered and implemented procedures compliant with Department and landfill permit requirements to allow more waste to be disposed in the sanitary landfill; however, we believe that additional action is necessary to improve efficiency of waste disposal operations and conserve EMWMF capacity.  Environmental Management generally concurred with the report and its comments were responsive to our recommendations.

Topic: Environmental Cleanup