Many Voices Working for the Community
Approved June 13, 2012 Meeting Minutes
The Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board (ORSSAB) held its monthly meeting on Wednesday, June 13, 2012, at the DOE Information Center, 1 Science.gov Way, Oak Ridge, Tenn., beginning at 6 p.m. A video of the meeting was made and may be viewed by contacting the ORSSAB support offices at (865) 241-4583 or 241-4584. The presentation portion of the video is available on the board’s YouTube site at www.youtube.com/user/ORSSAB/videos.
Charles Jensen, Secretary
Ed Juarez, Vice Chair
Maggie Owen, Chair
Matt McDaniel1, 2
2Second consecutive absence
DDFO, Liaisons, and Federal Coordinator Present
Dave Adler, DOE Liaison, Department of Energy - Oak Ridge Office (DOE-ORO)
Susan Cange, Acting Manager for DOE-ORO Environmental Management (EM) and Deputy Designated Federal Officer (DDFO)
Melyssa Noe, ORSSAB Federal Coordinator, DOE-ORO
John Owsley, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC)
Terry Cothron, B&W Y-12
Spencer Gross, ORSSAB Support Office
Norman Mulvenon, Citizen’s Oversight Panel
Pete Osborne, ORSSAB Support Office
Jon Richards, Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4 (EPA)
Laura Wilkerson, DOE-ORO
Nine members of the public were present.
Ms. Cange – Ms. Cange said transfer of zero power reactor plates from Building 3019 at Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL) to the Nevada National Security Site will be completed by the end of June. Ms. Cange said DOE will now turn its attention to the rest of the campaign to disposition uranium-233 from Oak Ridge.
DOE will be releasing a memorandum of agreement for historic preservation at East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) within a few days. She said she is ‘cautiously optimistic’ that the memorandum will be signed by the signatory parties in time to not impact adversely demolition activities on Building K-25. She said the document needs to be signed by the end of July so there is no impact to demolition work on the building.
Mr. Adler – no comments.
Mr. Richards – no comments.
Mr. Owsley – no comments.
Mr. Mulvenon encouraged board members and members of the public to participate on ORSSAB committees, especially the Stewardship Committee. He said the committee has just a few members of the board participating and asked that more members consider participating.
Ms. Wilkerson’s presentation was on the Status and Future Plans for Y-12 Cleanup. The main points of her presentation are in Attachment 1.
Y-12 National Security Complex covers about 810 acres just to the south Illinois Avenue in the City of Oak Ridge. It has a continuing national security mission, primarily the processing and storage of highly enriched uranium. During the past decade there has been significant public and private investment in the modernization of Y-12 to bring the plant’s facilities to 21st century standards. Ms. Wilkerson noted some facilities that have been built or will be built (Attachment 1, page 4), notably the Highly Enriched Uranium Management Facility, which is the national repository for highly enriched uranium, and the planned Uranium Processing Facility which will replace the current facilities for uranium processing. In the midst of this modernization legacy facilities from Y-12’s past missions remain. These legacy facilities represent thousands of square feet contaminated primarily with mercury, but in some cases with uranium and beryllium and other contaminants.
The cleanup of Y-12 will be challenging and complex. It includes 106 excess facilities that will have to be decontaminated and demolished (D&D) and soil and groundwater will have to be remediated. Page 5 of Attachment 1 indicates the facilities that will eventually be removed. The cleanup is challenging because of mercury contamination in soil and groundwater, deteriorating facilities, and the execution of work in close proximity to ongoing missions. Decisions on soil and groundwater are not scheduled to be made until the 2025 timeframe. But Ms. Wilkerson said actions have been taken to ensure contaminated groundwater is contained within the boundaries of Y-12.
She said DOE is proposing
to accelerate the cleanup of facilities at Y-12 after the demolition of
K-25 and K-27 at ETTP is completed in the 2016-2017 timeframe.
Ms. Wilkerson said there are two primary areas of mercury contamination at Y-12. One is the west end of plant around the Beta 4, Alpha 5, and Alpha 4 buildings (Attachment 1, page 6). This is known as the West End Mercury Area (WEMA). The other major contamination area is the Alpha 2 facility. There is a spring under Alpha 2 that has mercury contamination. A treatment system has been put in place to treat that water.
Mercury cleanup is necessary because it is released into the surface water of Upper East Fork Poplar Creek (UEFPC), which leaves Y-12 and flows into the City of Oak Ridge and eventually to the Clinch River.
In the last two decades a number of actions have been taken to address mercury (Attachment 1, page 7). Ms. Wilkerson said the one of the most important has been the installation of treatment systems to remove mercury from water. Another was the removal of flood plain soil from Lower EFPC outside of the Y-12 confines in the mid-1990s. Even with these actions the regulatory standards for mercury in water and fish tissue are not being met.
Recent cleanup accomplishments are nine projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. All nine of those projects have been completed. They include the removal of scrap from the 7-acre Old Salvage Yard on the west end of Y-12. About 30,000 cubic yards of contaminated debris were removed.
Significant process has been made in preparing the large process facilities for eventual D&D. This includes the cleanout of Alpha 5 and partial cleanout of Beta 4 and the characterization of Alpha 5 (Attachment 1, page 9).
Another completed project is the cleanout and relining of sewer system lines that discharged water from WEMA. During and at the completion of the project there was a spike of mercury discharges from that area of the plant because the system was being upset by the work. Since completion of the work levels of mercury have returned to previous levels of discharge. The expectation is that levels will continue to decrease because the pathway for contamination into the sewer system has been eliminated.
Five facilities in the east part of the plant have been demolished (Attachment 1, page 11), including four facilities of the former Biology Complex and the D&D of the 9206 Filter House.
Money from the Recovery Act was used to complete Cell 6 of the Environmental Management Waste Facility (EMWMF) (Attachment 1, page 12). That expands the disposal facility to its maximum capacity of 2.2 million cubic yards. Recovery Act money was also used to expand the Oak Ridge Reservation (ORR) sanitary landfills just south of Y-12.
As a result of efficiencies and cost savings, Recovery Act money that was not spent has been earmarked for other projects (buy backs) related to mercury cleanup at the plant. Those projects are noted on page 13 of Attachment 1. Ms. Wilkerson said one of the more important projects is the characterization of the 81-10 area, which is accessible and is highly contaminated with mercury. Characterization is scheduled to be finished by September. Another significant project is the conceptual design of a water treatment system at Outfall 200, which allows the highest concentration of mercury into EFPC. The hope is with the completion of the conceptual design additional funding will be received to begin construction of the treatment system. Ms. Wilkerson said work is also being done to upgrade and expand the capabilities to remove mercury from the sewer system before it reaches surface water.
Ms. Wilkerson said for the near-term the plans for Y-12 are focused on three areas:
· Reduce mercury flux
· Characterize and plan for remediation and waste disposal
· Prepare facilities for D&D
Long-term plans include source removal or stabilization of contamination and to address contamination sources in a ‘west to east’ approach (Attachment 1, page 15). That includes demolition of the large process facilities that have mercury contamination underneath and either the removal or stabilization of contaminated soils. The work is to be done in a west to east direction because that is the way water flows through Y-12.
Ms. Wilkerson said to
complete the cleanup additional onsite disposal capacity will be needed. Through
2011 EMWMF was more than half full and is projected to reach full capacity
FY 2016-19. Because of the approximately four-year lead time to get approval to build another disposal facility, documentation is being developed now to begin the process (Attachment 1, page 16).
Ms. Wilkerson said the vision for Y-12 is to address legacy contamination and complete cleanup to ensure environmental and health protection and to meet regulatory commitments. Other goals are to reduce the high security footprint at Y-12 and complete modernization of Y-12.
After Ms. Wilkerson’s presentation a number of questions were asked. Following are abridged questions and answers.
Mr. Valunas – I just read an article in the paper that a study had been completed and mercury wasn’t a problem. Ms. Wilkerson – That report was issued by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). It is an independent government agency, and they reviewed data that we have collected over the years on mercury. They concluded that from a health protection standpoint mercury is not a problem. However, they acknowledge in their report that they did not look at environmental protection and that their conclusions are based on the fish consumption advisories being adhered to. In contrast to that report there are Tennessee and EPA regulatory standards that are not being met for UEFPC, and we have records of decision (ROD) that are intended to take us to a point where we meet those standards. This cleanup is basically in support of complying with those RODs and achieving those regulatory standards. Mr. Valunas – Does that mean that the regulatory standards are in question and they should be looked at? Mr. Owsley – The regulatory criteria are not in question. The findings of the ATSDR acknowledge that institutional controls are in place to prevent exposure to humans, and as long as those controls remain in place there are no health hazards associated with the contamination of mercury in the environment. However, they did not deal with ecological impact of this material in the environment, and DOE is in violation of a number of water quality and fish flesh advisories. I would also point out that Ms. Wilkerson showed a picture of elemental mercury in the soil at Y-12. It’s illegal to dispose of liquid mercury into the environment. These situations will have to be remedied in some manner. Our first effort is to remove the risk. If that’s not sufficient we will have to institutionally control the risk.
Mr. Stow – Mercury is not the only contaminant at Y-12. I want to ask about the status of three others. The first is beryllium. Can you tell us about the distribution of beryllium, the chemical form as a contaminant, and what’s being done to clean it up? The second one is dense non-aqueous phase liquids that have been detected in the ground under the main plant area at depths of more than 400 feet. What’s being done with them? The third would be uranium in the main plant area. Ms. Wilkerson – Alpha 5 has both beryllium and uranium contamination. As we address the demolition of Alpha 5 we’ll have to deal with beryllium and uranium as part of the cleanup. Alpha 4 and Beta 4 don’t have the prevalence of beryllium and uranium contamination. Mr. Cothron – The beryllium has been looked as part of the Phase II soils ROD. As I recall it was a contaminant of concern but not as such that it had to be cleaned up for protection of the industrial worker. It’s not as widespread as depleted uranium or mercury. It will be looked at in future RODs that pertain to surface and groundwater. The uranium contamination is there mostly in the form of uranium-238 in the soils that we have characterized to date. Regarding the dense non-aqueous phase liquids, I think that will be taken up in a future ROD dealing with groundwater.
Mr. Jensen – When the work at Y-12 is finished to mitigate mercury releases at Y-12, is it the expectation or stated goal that the fish and other environmental insults that exist today will be gone and people can eat the fish in EFPC? Mr. Cothron – My response would be to go back to what Mr. Owsley said that ultimately you would aim at remediation and reducing or at least minimizing the institutional controls so that the uses of the stream are restored. Ms. Wilkerson – I should add that there is an effort undertaken by the Office of Science to investigate the methylation mechanisms of mercury in fish. What we have seen over the years is that as we have taken actions to reduce mercury in water there has not been a corresponding reduction of mercury in fish tissue. That’s because the methylation of mercury in fish is really complex and there is not a one-to-one correlation.
Mr. Jensen – You talked about the storm sewer being lined and the soils being disturbed and mercury releases increased, but now that the work is done the release levels are back to where you began. Was that expected and if so what was the goal of lining the sewer? Ms. Wilkerson – It was not expected and as I said we hoped to get to where there is a reduction in those levels. The project was just completed, but we started seeing the spike when we were in the middle of it.
Ms. Mei – Mr. Valunas said earlier that perhaps the regulations for mercury releases should be changed. EPA’s calculations on releases are not focused on dose but on the sum of releases. Perhaps in the next five or 10 years EPA will gradually modify those regulations and those release limits can be changed. Ms. Wilkerson – Based on anticipated regulation in the mercury area, we expect those limits to be more restrictive than what we have in the RODs because EPA wants to make a correlation between mercury in fish tissue and what levels have to be in the water to achieve the expected levels in fish tissue. The goal would be around 80 parts per trillion, which is higher than the 51 parts per trillion in ambient water quality criteria, but it’s lower than the 200 part per trillion in our existing interim ROD. I don’t think there is a point in the near future where those requirements would go down.
Mr. Juarez – When the issue of mercury came up at the EM SSAB Chairs’ meeting in Paducah in April, the DOE officials there were not that concerned nor is it high on their list of priorities. So when we talk in terms of budgeting that is near the bottom. But this presentation tells me that here in Oak Ridge we’re very concerned and it is a high priority for us. I think the board needs to stay abreast of this particular issue. Mr. Adler – I think you’re referring to the presentation on budget. It’s true that on the presentation on budget mercury didn’t get a lot of attention. Ms. Cange – I’ve talked before about the competing risks we have on the reservation. The nuclear and radiological risk is one category; the lifecycle cost risk is another category; and the third is the environmental risk. We absolutely believe our greatest environmental risk is the release of mercury from Y-12. I believe we’ve been successful in communicating that message and having headquarters understand that it is a priority. That is evidenced by their agreement that after getting our highest risk facilities at ETTP down that we should turn our attention to the mercury cleanup work that’s needed at Y-12. Regarding budget, if you look at FY 2013 House and Senate marks, you’ll see that the Senate mark has increased the Oak Ridge budget by $25 million specifically for mercury cleanup. We don’t know what the final budget will be for FY 2013 but we have recognition and acknowledgement on the Senate side that there is a need to begin to fund mercury cleanup work at Y-12.
Mr. Holmes – In talking about characterization of soils, is there a stepwise process to do this? Is there an algorithm that’s followed? Ms. Wilkerson – We follow the data quality objective process with the Federal Facility Agreement parties, and we go through the algorithms and come up with an agreed to level of characterization that is compliant with the guidance. Mr. Holmes – Has the board ever had a review of that? I’d like to see how thoroughly they’re characterizing the soil. Ms. Cange – It might be an interesting presentation to go through our data quality objective process to gain a better understanding of that. Ms. Noe has made a note to include that as a possible presentation.
Mr. Paulus – My understanding is that 200 parts per trillion of mercury in the water is the standard for what is considered unhealthful, is that right? Mr. Owsley – The 200 parts per trillion was an interim goal that DOE was to achieve in a five-year period of the previous National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit (NPDES). DOE has failed to meet that goal. Mr. Paulus – Are we trying to achieve a contamination level that has no bearing on what’s hazardous to health and what’s not hazardous to health? Mr. Owsley – The 51 parts per trillion is EPA’s criteria based on ambient water quality. It’s an estimate that is intended to be generic for the nation. The 87 parts per trillion is a number that is calculated based on in-stream water quality data. The 87 is the criteria that are considered to be protective of human health and the biota in EFPC. There is no pathway to human health at this point because of the institutional controls that are in place. Mr. Paulus – If the institutional controls are eliminating any risk to humans, what is the impact of doing nothing more? Ms. Cange – The release amounts fluctuate depending on the amount of rainfall and the amount of migration that is going on within the environment. They can be on average anywhere between 400 parts per trillion and can go up to the thousands at other times. In addition to protecting human health we are also required to protect the environment, which includes the ecological resources in the streams and the environmental quality components like water quality. While there is no immediate health impact it does not relieve DOE to also protect the environment. The work that is planned is to eliminate those releases that are occurring to ensure that the environment is protected. Regarding the fish advisories we are fortunate to have those institutional controls in place, but regulations do not allow us to rely on those controls in perpetuity. We cannot depend on the fish advisories forever to say that no further action is required. It’s for those reasons that we are required to continue to clean up the Y-12 site. Mr. Paulus – My question is still ‘what is the impact of doing nothing’ and has that ever been evaluated? Mr. Owsley – The impact of doing nothing is one of the alternatives in the decision making process under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation Liability Act (CERCLA) and it was not accepted.
Ms. Hart – Regarding reduction of the high security footprint, do you have any estimates or goals for how much that footprint is going to be reduced, and when you say high security footprint is that the same as the contamination footprint? Ms. Wilkerson – The high security footprint relates to the protection of the activities that are being conducted by National Nuclear Security Administration to support processing and storage of uranium. The goal is to reduce the footprint as much as possible and reduce the cost of operating the facility. The buildings that we have to D&D are in the way of that footprint reduction.
Mr. Jensen – We’ve heard some differences in opinions on how high the priority is for mercury. Is the priority the state perceives on mercury and what DOE perceives on mercury the same or are there differences in what the state would like and what DOE is doing? Mr. Owsley – There is no difference in priority. Both the state and EPA deem mercury as the highest environmental risk on the ORR. There are other risks that are taken into consideration each year when we prioritize projects for funding. For the last 20 years mercury has fallen below that priority for any significant effort. There has always been a continuous effort by DOE to reduce mercury on the reservation. If you look at the data DOE has successfully removed a significant portion of mercury from the environment, but they still have not achieved the criteria that are in place, and we still have the issue of institutional controls having to be maintained. The effort of CERCLA is to eliminate both the exceedences of the criteria as well as the need for institutional controls. The state has taken a position recently to expect from DOE a more balanced effort of environmental cleanup at all three sites. DOE has been focused on cleaning up ETTP since about 2002 when we signed the Accelerated Cleanup Plan agreement that said we would clean up ETTP by 2009 and then we would turn to Y-12 and Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL). We are here in 2012 with ETTP still needing cleanup and activity needing to be taken at Y-12 and ORNL. The state’s position has not changed – mercury is still our highest priority. What has changed is our position on the willingness to work with DOE on completing ETTP first. We are in agreement that work on K-25 and K-27 is our highest business priority and those buildings need to come down. Then we’ll focus available funding at Y-12. In the interim we are looking to DOE to provide as much mercury reduction as possible.
Mr. Murphree – Given that many thousands of pounds of mercury are underneath the buildings, what is the understanding of the distribution of that mercury? Ms. Wilkerson – We don’t have detailed characterization for underneath the buildings. That’s part of the data gap that we need to fill. Based on historic process knowledge, the expectation is the majority of the mercury that has been released to the surrounding soil will be contained underneath the buildings. Mr. Murphree – My next question is for Mr. Owsley. Are any of the projects on the buy back list also on the contingent list of projects for the Y-12 water discharge permit? Mr. Owsley – There were five projects that were listed for the NPDES permit and the west end utilities upgrade was part of the NPDES permit requirements. It has been completed using Recovery Act funding.
Mr. Valunas – Regarding the mercury contamination in EFPC, there is nothing I’ve heard tonight that indicates anyone, including the fish in the stream, is in imminent danger other than they have high levels of mercury in them. Are the fish dying earlier than you would expect them to? Mr. Owsley – The fish are not dying earlier, but the mercury body burden they bear causes the state of Tennessee to issue advisories to anyone eating the fish. The advisories limit the species of fish to be eaten as well as the quantity of the fish that should be eaten to avoid toxilogical impacts from the mercury in the fish flesh.
Mr. Adler – At the last Executive Committee meeting the discussion was that this mercury issue is something the board is interested in and what can be done to learn more about it. I agreed to try to line up some independent sources of information about mercury and associated risks for Oak Ridge. I contacted a toxicologist with ATSDR and he probably will be able to come and talk to the board about the human health issues. There are two sides to this – the human health issue and the non-human health end point. We may be able to get him here for the July meeting. He will be able to speak to a little more detail about how many transgressions against the fish advisories would be required to take on an unacceptable body burden and so on. I’m also looking into what we can do to shed more light on the environmental side of the issue. That’s a little trickier because to determine how much mercury it takes to diminish the fishes’ ability to reproduce, or grow to normal size, or impact how long they live, that science is not as well developed.
Ms. Gawarecki – Ms. Wilkerson mentioned the priority remediation was to begin in 2017. What would it take budget-wise to begin that work in 2014? What level of funding would be required? Ms. Wilkerson – Once the priority cleanup is completed at ETTP we will begin to ramp up work for Y-12 and that plan includes a substantial amount of money in 2015 and 2016 on the order of about $50 million a year and it goes up from there. But that’s really a difficult question to answer because the amount of money you need every year depends on what’s available and what you can plan to do. There are a lot of factors that play into that determination. We’re trying to do as much as we can in the early years to try to bring those numbers down. Ms. Gawarecki – If you had about $550 million a year, would that allow you to have an earlier start? Ms. Wilkerson – Yes.
Mr. Mulvenon – I have a question about the CERCLA waste facility (EMWMF). You said it will be full in the 2016-19 timeframe. You said you had decided to go ahead and build another cell separate from the CERCLA waste facility. That process hasn’t started yet. I’d like to point out that when the facility was built there was a lot of participation by the public. Ms. Wilkerson – The process regarding public involvement will be the same. What we’ve started is the paper work on the regulatory documents that are required to begin the process. We’ve not made any final decisions; we’ve just begun the paperwork to begin the process.
Board Finance & Process – Mr. Paulus reported that the board’s financial status was good. He said there is an open question about hiring a technical expert to study fractured rock hydrology on the ORR. Mr. Hatcher said he was going to have another conversation with a potential researcher about costs to do the project and possibly have him visit Oak Ridge for some initial discussions on the project.
Mr. McKinney provided an update on the planning for the board’s annual meeting August 17 and 18 at the Holiday Inn in Pigeon Forge. Jenny Freeman has been engaged to facilitate the meeting. A draft agenda for the meeting has been developed. The board member survey was distributed and Mr. McKinney asked members to complete it and return it at the July meeting.
EM – Mr. Hatcher said a presentation was made at the May meeting on cleanup activities in Zone 1 of ETTP, which surrounds the main industrial area of the plant.
The committee will meet on June 20 and receive a presentation on legacy materials in the central campus of ORNL.
Public Outreach – Mr. Hemelright reported that a news release had been issued concerning the white paper that was written regarding challenges of cleanup on the ORR (Recommendation 208: Recommendation for DOE to Use White Paper on Environmental Management's Challenges on the Oak Ridge Reservation).
A decision was made not to have an ORSSAB booth at the Oak Ridge Secret City Festival on June 16. Not enough members volunteered to staff a booth.
The committee reviewed and approved the editorial plan for the July Advocate newsletter.
Production has been completed on three 30-second and two 60-second public service announcements about the board that run on local cable channels during the recorded first hour of the monthly meetings. The announcements are posted on the board’s YouTube site (http://www.youtube.com/user/ORSSAB).
The committee reviewed the board’s informational brochure. The brochure has been revised to indicate how members of the public can participate on the board’s committees.
The committee reviewed its 2012 work plan, but made no changes.
The next meeting will be June 26. Mr. Stow will do a presentation on the board to educate members of the committee on how to do similar presentations for the public.
Stewardship – Mr. Stow reported that the committee received a presentation on the FY 2012 Remediation Effectiveness Report. The committee has suggested to the Executive Committee that a similar presentation be provided to the full board. It was also suggested to the Executive Committee that a presentation on stewardship in general and the development of the DOE geographical information system would be a worthwhile topic for the entire board.
The committee reviewed a draft fact sheet on Five Year Reviews. The committee had several comments on the fact sheet and sent a letter to DOE Headquarters with those comments.
Since both Mr. Stow and Mr. Murphree as committee chair and vice chair are rotating off the board after this meeting, the committee elected Ms. Staley and Ms. Martin respectively as interim chair and vice chair for the remainder of the fiscal year.
The committee will meet on June 19 and receive a presentation on the stewardship verification process that DOE will begin using to gather data for the Remediation Effectiveness Reports.
Executive – Ms. Owen reported that the committee reviewed the presentation at the May meeting on the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) and determined no recommendation or further action was need as a result of the presentation.
Member participation on committees was discussed. As a result staff was asked to poll the other SSABs and determine their various committees and committee participation.
The committee discussed a presentation on mercury. Ms. Owen said it was important that the board members understand the various risks associated with mercury on and off the reservation.
The committee will meet again on June 28.
Announcements and Other Board Business
ORSSAB will have its next monthly meeting on Wednesday, July 11, at 6 p.m. at the DOE Information Center. The presentation will be a presentation by ATSDR on mercury in EFPC and the effects on human health.
The minutes of the May 9, 2012, meeting were approved.
Mr. Juarez, Ms. Mei, Mr. Stow, and Mr. Murphree rotate off the board at the end of June. They were recognized for their service to the board. Betty Jones is also rotating off, but she was unable to attend the meeting.
Federal Coordinator Report
Ms. Noe said DOE EM headquarters has approved ORSSAB’s membership packages, so seven new members will be seated at the July meeting.
Additions to the Agenda
Mr. Jensen moved to approve the minutes of the May 9, 2012, meeting. Ms. Staley seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
The meeting adjourned at 7:45 p.m.
The data quality objective process will be considered by the Executive
Committee as a board presentation topic.
Attachments (1) to these minutes are available on request from the ORSSAB support office.