DOE responds to advisory board recommendation
 on groundwater studies

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management has responded to a recommendation made earlier this year by the Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board.

In May, the federally appointed citizens’ panel recommended that DOE conduct additional groundwater studies to address any potential offsite migration of chemicals or radioisotopes from DOE’s Oak Ridge Reservation. The recommendation focuses on developing information that fosters a better understanding of potential impacts of groundwater contamination related to risk mitigation, groundwater remediation, and long-term stewardship.

In 2013, DOE, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation held a series of workshops to prioritize groundwater pathways on the ORR. Together the agencies created a groundwater strategy document that described the potential for releases from waste disposal sites and storage areas. The document also prioritized known groundwater plumes, concentration of contaminants, contaminants of concern, and potential health risks.

In addition to recommending additional groundwater studies, ORSSAB asked DOE to review the existing monitoring well network for proper placement and to abandon any wells that are in the wrong location or lack structural integrity.

ORSSAB also recommended additional baseline funding to perform interpretive analysis to better understand potential plume migration and effects on offsite receptors.

ORSSAB members believed the plume rankings were subjective and suggested the development of process knowledge documents for each plume. The board continued that the ranking methods should be reviewed to confirm or revise the rankings.

In its response, DOE said it has proceeded with the offsite groundwater migration studies working in cooperation with EPA and TDEC. DOE has planned budgets for three years for the project studies, and it has planned budgets for follow-on years for additional activities that may result from the studies.

DOE acknowledged the plume rankings may be subjective, but they were agreed to by DOE, EPA, and TDEC and will remain unless conclusions from the additional studies warrant revision of the rankings.

The complete text of the recommendation and DOE’s response is available online here.

ORSSAB meets the second Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m. at the DOE Information Center at 1 Science.gov Way in Oak Ridge. The meetings are open to the public.

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