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…]

Oak Ridge first EPA green power community in Southeast

EPA Green Power Community

Oak Ridge has been recognized as the first Green Power Community in the Southeast by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Pictured above from left during a Monday night Oak Ridge City Council meeting are Oak Ridge Mayor Tom Beehan; Tennessee Representative John Ragan, vice chair of the House Energy Task Force; Robin Manning, executive vice president of external relations for the Tennessee Valley Authority; Marlene Witt, Oak Ridge business office manager; and Oak Ridge Electric Director Jack Suggs.


KNOXVILLE—The Tennessee Valley Authority has been recognized as a Top 10 utility leader in green power program sales, and Oak Ridge has been designated the first Green Power Community in the Southeast by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

TVA was recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. In the first NREL Top 10 ranking in a decade, TVA landed at No. 9 nationally with green power sales of 199,067 megawatt-hours in calendar 2013, thanks to TVA’s Renewable Energy Solutions programs and participating local power companies, a press release said.

Oak Ridge is one of the participating communities, and it received the EPA designation based in part on TVA green power purchases. TVA and Oak Ridge officials had a brief ceremony to celebrate during a Monday night Oak Ridge City Council meeting.

“TVA is proud to be recognized nationally for our strong and growing support of renewable energy,” said Patty West, director of TVA’s Renewable Energy Solutions. “Cost-effective, renewable energy is an important part of TVA’s diverse portfolio of energy-generation sources.”

A key to TVA’s renewable energy sales has been Green Power Switch, or GPS, which TVA launched on Earth Day 2000 with local power companies and members of the environmental community as the first-of-its-kind renewable power purchase program in the Southeast, the press release said. [Read more…]

ORISE recognized by EPA as Federal Green Challenge award winner


The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education received a 2014 Federal Green Challenge award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for improving its water consumption levels and its electronic sustainability and recycling efforts in 2013 by the highest percentage increase compared to the previous year in the Southeast region. ORISE is managed by Oak Ridge Associated Universities for the U.S. Department of Energy.

According to the EPA website, the 2014 Federal Green Challenge award winners are recognized “for their outstanding efforts and for their leadership in reducing the environmental footprint of federal government activities.”

“ORISE reduced its water consumption by 60 percent in 2013 with the majority of the improvement resulting from a more efficient, automated sprinkler system with a moisture sensor used for some of its landscaping, which would only irrigate when the soil was dry,” said Tom Wantland, director of ORAU’s environment, safety, and health programs. “If moisture from rain was present, the irrigation system would automatically detect it, and the system would not operate.” [Read more…]

Oak Ridge concludes Green Power Community Challenge with day of service


The City of Oak Ridge is wrapping up its two-month long Green Power Community Challenge with a day of service on Saturday, June 21, at the University of Tennessee Arboretum, which is located at 901 S. Illinois Ave. in Oak Ridge.

The Green Power Community Challenge encouraged local residents and businesses to buy green power and help Oak Ridge become an EPA-designated Green Power Community. The effort has been a tremendous success—more than 300 new customers enrolled in the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Green Power Switch program, more than triple the original goal, a city press release said.

Twenty volunteers are needed for the day of service. The volunteer work will be focused on a half-day project at the Arboretum in Oak Ridge. Specifically, volunteers will conduct a creek walk to clean up trash and debris, and construct benches for their new creek access area near the Arboretum entrance road. [Read more…]

Oak Ridge receives $3 million state wastewater loan

City of Oak Ridge Seal

Tennessee awards more than $8.2 million in low-interest water, wastewater construction loans

NASHVILLE—Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau on Tuesday announced that one community and one utility district have been approved to receive more than $8.2 million in low-interest loans for water and wastewater infrastructure improvements.

Oak Ridge received a $3 million state wastewater loan.

“It’s great to see local governments using this important program to help address critical drinking water and wastewater needs,” Haslam said in a press release. “Making these infrastructure improvements will benefit the health of these communities and economic growth.” [Read more…]

Oak Ridge could become first EPA-designated Green Power community in Southeast

Mark Watson

Mark Watson

The City of Oak Ridge is on the verge of being selected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a Green Power Community, the first in the Southeast, a press release said.

The EPA’s Green Power Partnership is a voluntary program that encourages organizations to buy renewable energy. To be designated as a Green Power Community, a local government must purchase or produce green power in amounts that meet EPA minimum purchase requirements as determined by community electricity usage.

Green power is defined as electricity generated from renewable resources, such as wind, solar, biogas, biomass, and low-impact hydropower. Oak Ridge Electric Department customers can buy Green-e Energy certified renewable energy through the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Green Power Switch program.

To qualify, local governments must also initiate a community-wide green power campaign to encourage renewable energy purchases. The City of Oak Ridge, playing off its nickname as the Secret City due to its historical origins, created a campaign called, “The Secret’s Out: Oak Ridge Loves Green Power,” to encourage residents and businesses to buy green power. [Read more…]