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U.S. DOE Oak Ridge Reservation


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Site Summary Profile
EPA ID: TN1890090003
Location: Oak Ridge, Anderson County, Tennessee
Lat/Long: 35.924710, -084.390130
Congressional District: 03
NPL Status: Proposed: 07/14/89; Final: 11/21/89
Affected Media: Debris, Ground water, Sediment, Sludge, Soil, Solid Waste, Surface Water
Cleanup Status: Cleanup activities are underway
Site Reuse/Redevelopment: Active Facility
Site Manager: Jeff Crane (crane.jeff@epa.gov)

Site Background

The Oak Ridge Reservation (ORR) site, a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) facility, covers nearly 35,000 acres and is located within and adjacent to the corporate limits of the City of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The site contains hundreds contaminated areas on the ORR and contaminated surface water and sediment outside the ORR boundary,including the Poplar Creek, the Clinch River, and lower Watts Bar Reservoir of the Tennessee River.

The site consists of three large industrial production facilities constructed as part of the World War II-era Manhattan Project: the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (formerly known as the X-10 Site), a research facility that includes nuclear reactors and ongoing energy, chemical, and biological programs; the former K-25 Site, now known as the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP), a former production facility that enriched uranium-235 by gaseous diffusion; and the Y-12 Plant, a production facility that formerly enriched uranium-235 by an electromagnetic process, and currently disassembles nuclear weapon components, processes nuclear materials, and performs other functions related to energy and national defense programs.

Many cleanup activities at the site have been grouped according to watersheds. ETTP is not a well defined watershed and is treated as a single watershed for administrative purposes. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory is divided into the Bethel Valley Watershed and the Melton Valley Watershed, both of which are drained by White Oak Creek. Y-12 is divided into the Bear Creek Valley Watershed and the Upper East Fork Poplar Creek (UEFPC) Watershed.

Site operations generated a variety of radioactive, non-radioactive, and mixed (radioactive and non-radioactive) hazardous wastes, most of which were containerized and buried below ground or stored in buildings on site.

An estimated 43,200 people obtain water from surface water intakes on the Tennessee River along a 118-mile stretch downstream from the site.

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Threats and Contaminants

Leakage from buried waste areas and former processing facilities has contaminated soils, ground water, surface water and sediments. Site related contaminants above levels of concern include Base Neutral Acids, inorganics, metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), pesticides, radioactive materials, and volatile organic compounds. Some contamination has migrated beyond the boundaries of the ORR, primarily in the surface water and sediment pathways. Institutional controls are in place for these contaminated media located off the ORR and include fish consumption advisories, a permit review process for dredging sediments, and periodic surveys of land and resource use activities.

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Site Cleanup Plan

Due to the size and complexity of environmental issues at the site, 52 operable units (OUs) have been identified at the ORR site to date and approximately 80 individual remedial and removal action decisions have been made. Because the site is a federal facility listed on the National Priorities List, the lead agency under CERCLA, the Department of energy, entered into a compliance agreement - a Federal Facility Agreement (FFA) - with EPA and the State (See Enforcement Activities below). The FFA establishes the terms and conditions for planning and executing the cleanup of the site, includig enforceable schedules. Appendix G to the FFA describes the cleanup strategy.

Prioritization of all cleanup projects is performed to allocate resources to the highest priorities. The prioritization of projects and subsequent scheduling establishes the enforceable cleanup schedule and cleanup plan. the top two priorities are to address contamination causing a current dangerous exposure and to control releases of contamination that have migrated off the ORR. Currently, these top two highest priorities have been controlled through early actions or institutional controls. As of 2003, the cleanup plan moved into an accelerated phase to remediate sources and residual contamination on the ORR. The objective of this accelerated phase is to prioritize completion of the highest risk projects and to complete projects that will reduce the long term costs associated with maintaining contaminated structures.

Under the FFA, the entire cleanup program is evaluated and prioritized annually. Cleanup planning and setting enforceable schedules in FFA Appendix E is done on a five year planning period; however, the entire duration and long-term cleanup strategy is included in FFA Appendix J. The overall approach for prioritizing is risk-based and focuses first on those contaminant sources that are the greatest contributors to risk. The overall strategy is based on surface water cleanup goals in the five distinct watersheds on the ORR that feed the Clinch River. While risk reduction is the major cleanup driver, other factors affect the order and phasing of cleanup. Contaminated structures are demolished before underlying soils are addressed. Upstream contamination sources are addressed before downstream resources are restored so the downstream areas do not become re-contaminated.


Details for cleanup approaches at other site OUs are available online.

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Cleanup Progress

Since 1986, DOE has initiated remedial action for approximately 50 operable units in addition to numerous removal response actions. Some of the remedial response cleanup highlights include:

Clinch River and Poplar Creek:
An interim ROD for remedial action imposed institutional controls that restrict dredging of creek sediments and consumption of fish and turtles contaminated with mercury and PCBs. The remedial action report was approved in November 1997.

Lower Watts Bar Reservoir:
A Final ROD was selected in 1997 to impose institutional controls that restrict dredging of creek sediments and the consumption of fish and turtles contaminated with mercury and PCBs. Melton Valley:

An Interim ROD was signed in 2000 for the Melton Valley Watershed waste management sources to impose institutional controls and hydraulically isolate the buried wastes by a series of caps, focused excavation and treatment zones, and water table lowering and diversion systems. Contruction completion of the interim remedy was documented in a Remedial Action Report in 2007.

Environmental Management Waste Management Facility (EMWMF) CERCLA Waste Cell:

Bear Creek Valley:
An interim ROD was signed in 2000 for the Boneyard/Burnyard and the S-3 Pond Pathway 3 area (to supplement the early removal response action for S-3 Pathways 1/3) of the valley with the following cleanup activities:

The Upper East Fork Poplar Creek (UEFPC):
The Phase 1 Interim ROD was signed in May 2002 and selected a number of different source control remedies to control the influx of mercury from the Y-12 plant into UEFPC. The major actions are the hydraulic isolation of contaminated soils in the West End Mercury Area (WEMA), the treatment of the discharge of ground water into UEFPC at Outfall 51 and the removal of contaminated sediments from UEFPC and Lake Reality. Following are the projects that are being implemented:

The Phase 2 UEFPC Soils Interim ROD was issued in April 2006. Remedial actions will be implemented in phased approach coincident with removal actions to demolish contaminated structures and is not expected to be completed until 2037.

East Tennessee Technology Park, Zone 1:

East Tennessee Technology Park, Zone 2:

Two Five-Year Reviews have been finalized for the site, in 2003 and 2007.

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Enforcement Activities

A Federal Facility Agreement (FFA) (PDF) (89 pp, 150K, About PDF) was established between DOE, EPA, and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation in 1992. FFAs ensure that the environmental impacts associated with past and present activities at the site are thoroughly investigated, appropriate cleanup and corrective actions are developed and implemented, and schedules, priorities and enforceable milestones for cleanup activities at federal sites are established.

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Community Involvement

EPA conducts community involvement activities at the Oak Ridge Reservation site.DOE serves as the lead agency for community involvement activities. DOE maintains an active outreach program to solicit community input and to ensure that the public remains informed about site activities throughout the site cleanup process.

In addition, the Oak Ridge Site-Specific Advisory Board (Board), a DOE Federal Advisory Committee, provides independent advice and recommendations regarding cleanup standards and environmental restoration, waste management and disposition, stabilization and disposition of non-stockpile nuclear materials, excess facilities, future land use and long-term stewardship, risk assessment and management, and cleanup science and technology activities. The Board is made up of local citizens representing a cross-section of the community. DOE, EPA and the State obtain community views and expectations for cleanup from the Board and other local citizens' groups. EPA serves as a liaison to the ORSSAB.

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Future Work

Cleanup activities will continue at the Oak Ridge site.

In addition, Property Transfers are a mechanism by which DOE is accelerating site closure at ORR. Properties which DOE can show are protective for the intended use may be transferred under a Covenant Deferral Request (CDR), which allows DOE to transfer properties prior to completion of CERCLA remediation activities. As of 2009, several parcels of the ORR, comprising over 100 acres, have been transferred early via CDRs. Additionally, over 200 acres have been transferred as "clean parcels" pursuant to CERCLA 120 (h)(4). DOE expects to continue land transfer activities and EPA will continue to work with DOE to support these transfer activities.

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Site Administrative Documents

Site Repository

For more information or to view any site-related documents, please visit the site information repository at the following location. As new documents are generated, they will be placed in the information repository for public information.

DOE Information Center
475 Oak Ridge Turnpike
Oak Ridge, TN 37830

Administrative Record Index

For documents not available on the website, please contact the Region 4 Freedom of Information Office or the DOE Information Center above.

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