Construction on Y-12 mercury treatment plant could start in 2018, cost $146 million

Y-12 Process Buildings and Mercury Use Area

Note: This story was last updated at 3:30 p.m.

Construction on a mercury treatment plant at the Y-12 National Security Complex could start in 2018 and cost $146 million, a federal official said Wednesday.

The plant would treat mercury contamination that originates in the West End Mercury Area at Y-12, flows through storm drains, and enters Upper East Fork Poplar Creek at a point known as Outfall 200. East Fork Poplar Creek flows through Oak Ridge.

The U.S. Department of Energy has evaluated several alternatives for treating the mercury, including doing nothing. But DOE prefers an option that would treat 3,000 gallons of contaminated water per minute and store two million gallons of stormwater. It could reduce the flow of mercury, a toxic metal, by an estimated 84 percent. [Read more…]

Five years and $17 million later, city satisfies EPA Clean Water order

Emory Valley Road Sewer System Holding Tanks

Workers assemble a sewer system holding tank near Emory Valley Road on Wednesday afternoon, April 1, 2015. (Photo by John Huotari/Oak Ridge Today)


Five years and $17 million later, Oak Ridge has satisfied a federal administrative order that required the city to repair all sewer system overflows by the end of this month, officials announced Wednesday.

Mark Watson

Mark Watson

Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson said he has received a “closure letter” from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stating the City’s Administrative Order pursuant to the Clean Water Act has been fulfilled, a press release said. The letter, signed by James Giattina, director the Water Protection Division at EPA’s regional office in Atlanta, states that the EPA Region 4 “has determined that the city has satisfied the requirements of the referenced order and hereby closes the order.”

In 2010, the EPA filed an administrative order against the city for excess “Inflow and Infiltration” affecting the wastewater collection lines within the city’s primary service areas. The EPA considered the reported system overflows and piped overflows to be a violation of the Clean Water Act, the press release said. The administrative order contained various program requirements to eliminate the overflows, ensure adequate capacity system wide, and to develop a formal management, operation, and maintenance program, or MOM.

“I am pleased to report that the challenge of the EPA administrative order charged against our city is over!” Watson said. “We have received written confirmation that we have done a substantial job in addressing the findings of the Environmental Protection Agency against Oak Ridge. The order is now closed and we can begin to maintain a consistent and ongoing maintenance effort of this important sewage infrastructure for the community.” [Read more…]

City may need to access residential properties to identify stormwater outfalls

By City of Oak Ridge

The City of Oak Ridge may need to access residential property during reasonable hours to identify stormwater outfalls along streams. This is not a request to enter into any building or structures on the property; it is specifically for the purpose of identifying outfalls along streams (or their tributary watercourses) throughout the City of Oak Ridge. Representatives of the City of Oak Ridge will be mapping these outfalls with GPS units and/or making visual assessments of the watercourse, a press release said.

The City of Oak Ridge is mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) under the Phase II Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit to monitor certain streams (or tributaries to those streams). The goal of this mandate is to protect and rehabilitate our natural water resources. In accordance with this mandate, the City of Oak Ridge has created a geographical information system (GIS) storm sewer map and database program to identify stormwater outfall locations of the U.S. Waters of the State. To facilitate this program, we must enter onto private property to access the watercourse.

The City of Oak Ridge thanks you for your cooperation in complying with this state and federal mandate, and assisting in making our water resources cleaner for everyone. If you have any questions, please call the City of Oak Ridge Stormwater Management Hotline at (865) 425-3497.

EPA, TVA have final public meeting today on Kingston ash spill cleanup

Kingston Fossil Plant Ash Spill Cleanup

Ash that spilled into the brown embayment pictured above had been removed by June 2013, and workers placed a black plastic liner over an ash containment cell in the background, preparing to close it late in 2014. The ash spilled in December 2008 when a storage cell failed at the Kingston Fossil Plant, back left. (File photo)


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Tennessee Valley Authority have their final public meeting on the cleanup of the 2008 ash spill in Kingston during a meeting this evening (Thursday, June 4).

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is also participating in the meeting on the Kingston Recovery Project.

The meeting is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, June 4, in the Roane County High School Auditorium. [Read more…]

Workers building sewer system holding tank near Emory Valley Road

Emory Valley Road Sewer System Holding Tanks

Workers assemble a sewer system holding tank near Emory Valley Road and Fairbanks Road on Wednesday afternoon.


Workers have been assembling a sewer system holding tank near Emory Valley Road and Fairbanks Road. It’s one of three tanks that will help Oak Ridge comply with a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency order that requires the city to end all sewer system overflows by September 2015.

The Emory Valley Road tank is on a roughly one-acre tract on the east side of the former Daniel Arthur Rehabilitation Center. The other two tanks will be built near the intersection of South Illinois Avenue and Scarboro Road, just down the street from the main entrance to the Y-12 National Security Complex, and in an isolated, industrial area off Cairo Road in east Oak Ridge.

The Oak Ridge City Council approved the locations for the three tanks, officially known as equalization basins, in September 2013. The Anderson County Commission agreed to donate a small parcel of land for the Emory Valley Road tank. And the City Council agreed in December 2013 to buy a car wash owned by businessman Terry Mulllins for $125,000 and replace it with the tank at Scarboro Road and South Illinois Avenue as part of a plan to move that equalization basin farther back from the road. [Read more…]

ORAU wins contract worth up to $89 million from EPA

Oak Ridge Associated Universities Building MC-100

The Oak Ridge Associated Universities Building MC-100 is pictured above.

Oak Ridge Associated Universities recently won a five-year contract worth up to $89 million from the Environmental Protection Agency to manage the EPA Environmental Research and Business Support Program, which provides opportunities for exceptional undergraduate and recent bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral graduates to participate in the EPA-sanctioned research and administrative projects.

Through this work, ORAU will recruit and place employees at 13 EPA Office of Research and Development laboratories and research centers across the U.S.  These participants in both business and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields will receive hands-on training in real-world settings at these laboratories and research centers while contributing to EPA’s mission, a press release said. [Read more…]

TVA: Kingston Ash Recovery Project follows new EPA guidelines

TVA Kingston Fossil Plant Dike C Reinforcement

Photo courtesy TVA


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for coal combustion products released on Friday are consistent with work the Tennessee Valley Authority has already done at the Kingston recovery project, the public utility said in a press release.

“TVA is already making substantial changes in the way we work with coal combustion products, including coal ash and gypsum, said TVA President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Johnson. “This included committing an estimated $2 billion to convert all our coal fleet impoundments from wet to dry storage. While recognizing the significant potential for beneficial reuse of ash and other products, we agree it needs to be handled and stored safely.”

The project area surrounding the Kingston Fossil Plant near Harriman is in the final restoration stage following the coal ash spill in December 2008. It was the largest ash spill in U.S. history. [Read more…]

TVA: Kingston Ash Recovery Project nears completion

TVA Kingston Fossil Plant Dike C Reinforcement

TVA Kingston Fossil Plant Dike C reinforcement (Photos courtesy TVA)


The Tennessee Valley Authority is in the final stages of the Kingston recovery project. The public utility says it’s fulfilling a promise to restore the area surrounding the Kingston Fossil Plant near Harriman following the coal ash spill in December 2008, the largest ash spill in U.S. history.

A major milestone was reached in early December, with the completion of the cover for a 240-acre permanent ash retention landfill. The new landfill, which has been fortified with an underground earthquake-resistant wall anchored in bedrock, is covered by a flexible-membrane liner and geo-composite fabric, two feet of clay, topsoil, and grass.

“We all know this incident shouldn’t have happened,” said TVA President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Johnson, who visited the recovery site on December 17. “But we have learned from it and we are fulfilling our commitment to making it right.”

TVA says it’s also keeping its promise by returning the Emory River and surrounding waterways to pre-spill conditions, reforesting and adding vegetation to surrounding land, stabilizing shorelines, and adding wetlands and other wildlife habitats. TVA has opened Lakeshore Park, which features 32 acres of walking trails, fishing piers, a boat ramp, and docks. [Read more…]

EPA: Oak Ridge is a Green Power Community of the Year

ORNL Bethel Valley Solar Array

Construction was completed in 2008 on a 288-foot-long, 51.25 kilowatt solar system (second-largest in Tennessee) that will supply power to the office building that houses researchers associated with Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s buildings technology programs. (Photo courtesy ORNL)


Oak Ridge has been recognized as a Green Power Community of the Year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Oak Ridge is one of only two cities to receive the award. The other is Medford, Oregon.

Oak Ridge is one of 19 Green Power Partners and four suppliers from across the country receiving Green Leadership Awards given each year by the EPA. Awardees are recognized for their achievements in advancing the nation’s renewable energy market and reducing greenhouse gas emissions fueling climate change, a press release said.

The 2014 Green Power Leadership Awards will be presented on Wednesday, December 3, at the annual Renewable Energy Markets Conference in Sacramento, California. [Read more…]

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. [Read more…]

Guest column: City manager urges citizen engagement in key decisions

Mark Watson

Mark Watson

Many projects are happening in Oak Ridge at the present time. Our city does not slow down and is affected by issues at the state, federal, and local levels.

As your city manager, I am concentrating on matters such as the implementation of EPA sewer requirements on a tight timeframe, creation of a national park, development of a new mall, and installation of a new dispatch center.

Among its many other decisions, Oak Ridge will be facing a pair of major initiatives which particularly important for our community. The American Museum of Science and Energy (AMSE), owned by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and managed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory contractor UT-Battelle, is under new leadership as veteran museum director David Moore takes the helm. With this change, the DOE knows that the long-term viability of a museum is dependent upon local and regional involvement.

Recently, the AMSE Foundation and the City of Oak Ridge have been co-hosting a series of community meetings about AMSE to discuss options for developing a new operating model for the museum. Two of four public discussions have been held about this topic.

Last week, we heard from the directors of the MUSE in Knoxville, the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge, and the new Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol to hear how today’s museums remain current and relevant to their visitors. Turnout for the first two meetings has been very encouraging; the next public meeting is scheduled for Thursday, September 25, from 6-8 p.m., when heritage tourism will be discussed. [Read more…]

Letter: Write-in House candidate says coal is obsolete

Leslie Agron EPA Clean Power Plan Hearing

Oak Ridge resident Leslie Agron testifies at an EPA clean power plan hearing in Atlanta on July 29. (Submitted photo)

Note: This is a copy of testimony given July 29 in Atlanta by Oak Ridge resident Leslie Agron, a write-in candidate in the Democratic primary for Tennessee House of Representatives on Thursday.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen of the EPA. Thank you for taking my testimony.

My name is Leslie Agron. I am from Oak Ridge, Tennessee. As the son of a Manhattan Project scientist, I was born and raised there. I grew up within walking distance of Appalachia.

I am currently a candidate for the Tennessee state legislature. I have previously served on Oak Ridge’s Environmental Quality Advisory Board. I hold an Executive MBA from The Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University. Given that credential, the thrust of my remarks will be about business and business climate.

I hold that, contrary to industry remarks that coal makes jobs, coal is not good business. To be clear, in a historical sense, coal was very important to the development of America in the 19th and 20th centuries. During those historical times, coal very much enhanced the business climate of our country by supplying affordable energy when no other source of energy was available. [Read more…]