The Environmental Restoration Program was established by DOE in 1989 to identify, control, and remediate environmental contamination at the Portsmouth Site. The overall environmental cleanup strategy at Portsmouth is based on taking near-term actions to control or eliminate ongoing sources of contamination along with continued investigation of other potential sources. DOE works with regulators to further define project sequencing while optimizing resources and utilizing a risk-based approach to ensure timely environmental cleanup and minimize workforce impacts.
The Ohio Consent Decree and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrative Order by Consent require investigation and cleanup of environmental media at the Portsmouth Site in accordance with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Corrective Action Program. The site was divided into quadrants using a watershed approach, based primarily on the direction of groundwater and surface water flow, to facilitate the investigation and cleanup. Corrective actions are underway in each quadrant.
The key strategies for the Portsmouth Site are to continue operations of groundwater treatment facilities in support of installed remedies and to continue disposition of excess uranium materials and remove stored low-level and mixed waste streams contaminated with hazardous or toxic chemicals.
Soil and Groundwater Cleanup
DOE is managing the cleanup of environmental media (e.g., soil and groundwater) that were impacted by site operations to protect human health and the environment in accordance with cleanup levels approved in RCRA Corrective Action decision documents. Past operations have led to soil contaminated with the degreasing solvent trichloroethylene (TCE), which was used extensively during production years to clean uranium enrichment process equipment, radionuclides, heavy metals, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
Groundwater treatment facilities are operated to treat on-site groundwater plumes contaminated primarily with TCE. The groundwater is currently being managed by pump and treat systems and engineered designed barriers.
DOE and Ohio EPA must evaluate alternatives and select final cleanup remedies for soil and groundwater. Public input is a key element in the decision-making process.
The Portsmouth Site Waste Management Program directs the safe storage, treatment, and disposal of waste generated from the decontamination and decommissioning (D&D) of facilities that are no longer in use, past plant operations, ongoing plant maintenance, and ongoing environmental restoration projects.
Waste management requirements are varied and often complex because of the variety of wastes generated by activities at the Portsmouth Site. The types of waste include:
- Low-level radioactive waste (LLW) – radioactive waste not classified as high level or transuranic waste.
- Hazardous waste – waste listed under the RCRA or waste that exhibits hazardous characteristics: ignitability, corrosiveness, reactivity, or toxicity.
- PCB wastes – waste containing PCBs, a class of synthetic organic chemicals.
- RCRA/low-level radioactive mixed waste – waste containing both hazardous and radioactive components. The waste is subject to RCRA, which governs the hazardous components, and to the Atomic Energy Act that governs the radioactive components.
- PCB/low-level radioactive mixed waste – waste containing both PCB and radioactive components. The waste is subject to TSCA regulations that govern PCB components, and to the Atomic Energy Act that governs radioactive components.
- PCB/RCRA/low-level radioactive mixed waste – waste containing PCB and radioactive components that is also a RCRA hazardous waste. The waste is subject to RCRA regulations, TSCA regulations that govern PCBs, and to the Atomic Energy Act that governs radioactive components.
- Solid wastes – Waste that includes construction and demolition debris, industrial waste, and sanitary waste, as defined by Ohio regulations.
In addition to complying with DOE Orders and State and Federal regulations, DOE has implemented supplemental policies for management of DOE waste at Portsmouth, including: minimizing waste generation; characterizing and certifying wastes before they are stored, processed, treated, or disposed; pursuing volume reduction (such as blending and bulking); on-site storage in preparation for safe and compliant final treatment and/or disposal; and recycling.
Planning and coordination of recycling and other environmentally responsible efforts are facilitated by the Site Sustainability Team (SST). The SST membership, as described in its charter, consists of representatives of the PORTS DOE primary contractors and DOE/PPPO representatives having an interest in or responsibility for meeting their environmental stewardship and compliance requirements.