June 8, 2020

The Department of Energy’s Management of Cleanup at the Paducah Site’s C-400 Complex

The C-400 complex at the Paducah Site in Paducah, Kentucky includes the 134,000 square-foot C-400 building and surrounding areas.  The C-400 building had been used in a variety of functions to support operations at the plant but was primarily used to clean parts and equipment from the uranium enrichment process buildings using a hazardous solvent containing trichloroethylene.  The Paducah Site contains the largest offsite trichloroethylene groundwater plumes in the Department of Energy’s complex, and releases beneath the C-400 building are the primary ongoing source to the plumes.  In 2016, the Department proposed to accelerate the investigation and cleanup of the C-400 complex for all sources of contamination associated with the C-400 building and associated structures.

In August 2017, the Department entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with the environmental regulators who oversee the Paducah cleanup through a Federal Facilities Agreement.  Paducah’s Federal Facilities Agreement, a tri-party agreement between the Department, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection, governs the site’s corrective and response actions, from site investigation through site remediation, as agreed upon by the three parties.  The Memorandum of Agreement outlined the tri-party agreement to accelerate the investigation of all remaining contaminants under and around the C-400 building and set forth a timeline for C-400 cleanup activities to be completed and/or started between 2019 and 2024.  We initiated this audit to determine if the Department was on track with cleanup activities at the Paducah Site’s C-400 building and surrounding areas.

We determined that the Department was not on track with cleanup activities at the C-400 complex.  Specifically, the Department had not yet completed the C-400 building deactivation, had postponed the building demolition, and had re-aligned the start of remedial investigation to now begin prior to the building demolition.  To address the issues identified, we made recommendations to the Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office.

Topic: Environmental Cleanup