There is a public availability session on the proposed federal landfill in Oak Ridge on Thursday.
The U.S. Department of Energy has issued a proposed plan to build a new landfill on the Oak Ridge Reservation. The landfill, the Environmental Management Disposal Facility, would be in Bear Creek Valley west of the Y-12 National Security Complex. It is intended for disposal of radioactive, hazardous, and toxic wastes. It would be used as cleanup work ends at the East Tennessee Technology Park and the existing landfill, the Environmental Management Waste Management Facility fills up, and cleanup work moves to Y-12 and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
A press release said the Sierra Club has invited state and federal officials from DOE, Environmental Protection Agency, and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to be available for public questions about the Environmental Management Disposal Facility. The public availability session has been scheduled from 2 to 8 p.m. Thursday, October 11, at the TDEC office at 761 Emory Valley Road in Oak Ridge.
This will be a walkthrough poster session, TDEC said. If you attend, you should follow the signs for parking and enter through the back of the building, on the south side.
“Please note that public comments cannot be accepted at this availability session,” TDEC said. “All public comments must be submitted directly to DOE in writing or at the formal public comment hearing on October 18.”
For more information, send an email to John LeCroy at [email protected].
Here is an Environmental Management Disposal Facility Fact Sheet from TDEC:
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) wants to build a new landfill to dispose of their radioactive, hazardous, and toxic wastes in Oak Ridge. They are running out of available space at their current CERCLA landfill, the Environmental Management Waste Management Facility (EMWMF). DOE named the proposed new landfill the Environmental Management Disposal Facility (EMDF). OREM recently released a proposed plan for the public to read and provide opinions back to DOE.
One required part of the proposed plan is a section called “State Acceptance.” This section presents the State of Tennessee’s position and key concerns with DOE’s proposal. The State Acceptance section describes important issues that have not been resolved enough to gain state approval of DOE’s proposed plan. DOE must work with the state to resolve these key issues, which include:
- DOE is studying the suitability of the proposed location. To gain the state’s support, DOE may need to revise the landfill design because groundwater near the land surface could help contamination escape into streams. This might affect the types and amounts of waste DOE could place in the landfill.
- DOE and the regulators (the state and EPA) need to agree on legal requirements. Some of these requirements were developed from experience with existing landfills across Tennessee. The proposed plan calls these requirements “ARARs.”
- DOE needs to provide more details about what kind and how much waste it intends to put in the landfill. Because some of the waste will remain dangerous for many years, it is important for the state to understand possible future impacts to the public and the environment.
- DOE is working to complete technical assessments required by its own rules. The state needs to evaluate DOE’s findings to both inform the state’s final decision on this landfill and to understand how to minimize the possible future risks from the landfill.
- Because fish in Bear Creek already contain contamination, the state is concerned about mercury being placed in the new landfill. DOE and the regulators (the state and EPA) need to agree on how much mercury the landfill can hold without increasing risks for people who fish downstream.
- To accommodate placement of large waste volumes in an area between streams with groundwater near the land surface, DOE may propose a landfill that includes some underdrains. Tennessee does not allow the use of drainage features (underdrains) beneath landfill waste to lower the groundwater level (water table). Failure of underdrains could make the landfill less stable and allow water to get into the waste. Underdrains also provide routes for any leakage to escape quickly. Either of these problems could cause contamination to flow into streams.
- It rains a lot in east Tennessee. Tennessee ranks in top five states in the United States with 50-plus inches of precipitation on average each year. DOE and the regulators (the state and EPA) must agree on how to manage all contaminated water generated by the landfill. This will help protect people downstream during recreational activities, including fishing.
As of October 2018, DOE has not resolved the important issues listed above. Until the state’s concerns have been resolved, the state cannot approve the landfill as currently proposed.
Regardless of whether this proposed plan is agreed upon and approved, DOE will continue to send radioactive and hazardous waste to approved facilities in other states, mostly in the western U.S. Waste exceeding onsite disposal limits needs to be disposed offsite. Sending more waste offsite may cost more money in the short term, but there are tradeoffs with cost and risk. We believe a solution can be found that balances costs and risks and keeps cleanup moving forward.
The state will continue working with DOE to find solutions to the proposed plan issues identified above. The state encourages residents to provide comments to DOE on this important decision.
Due Date for Public Comments
Public comments regarding the proposed plan can be submitted to the Department of Energy. No comments should be submitted to the state for the official administrative record related to the Proposed Plan. These comments must be submitted to DOE by December 10, 2018, and can be emailed to [email protected] or mailed to: Mr. John Michael Japp, P.O. Box 2001, Oak Ridge, TN, 37831.
DOE has scheduled a meeting to hear public comments at 6 p.m. on October 18, 2018, at the Y-12 New Hope Center, 602 Scarboro Road. You are invited to that meeting to hear more about DOE’s proposed plan and share your views about the proposed action.
Contacts for Further Information
John Michael Japp
P.O. Box 2001
Oak Ridge, TN, 37831
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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