Enterprise Resource Planning
Review shows Plant on track for legacy contamination cleanup
The Pantex Plant passed a significant milestone in November in its effort to clean up legacy contamination at the site, securing state and federal approval in a review of the decade-long remediation process.
The completion of the five-year review, with the concurrence of officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), confirms the effectiveness of ongoing efforts to clean up soil and perched groundwater contamination remaining from decades of weapons production at the Plant.
“Protection of the environment is a critical focus of all our efforts at Pantex. The results of this review show that we are taking the right steps to accomplish that mission,” said B&W Pantex General Manager John Woolery.
Pantex played a key role in the Cold War, helping to secure America through the creation of a safe and effective nuclear stockpile. Those efforts left contamination in soil and perched groundwater at the Plant. While the sources that generated the contamination have been eliminated, the contamination itself remains and must be remediated for long-term protection of human health and the environment.
Starting in the early 2000’s, Pantex worked with EPA and TCEQ to select the remedy under the auspices of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). The selected remedy includes innovative approaches to clean up contaminants on the plant site, primarily high explosives, solvents, perchlorate and chromium.
Groundwater contamination is limited to a shallow perched aquifer beneath the plant and Texas Tech University property to the south. Remediation is focused on removing the contamination, removing water from the perched aquifer to limit migration of contamination, protecting the regional drinking water aquifer known as the Ogallala Aquifer and working to restore the perched aquifer for drinking water purposes. This is accomplished primarily through two conventional pump and treat systems that beneficially reuse the treated water and two innovative bioremediation systems that pump a food source (emulsified soybean oil) into the aquifer to sustain bacteria that break down contaminants.
Much of the soil contamination is left over from legacy waste practices that included disposal of contaminated wastewater, solvents, or debris in unlined ditches, pits or landfills. Cleanup actions in these areas include a soil vapor extraction system, ditch liners and vegetative covers on landfills.
The CERCLA review confirmed that the remedial actions in place are functioning well to protect human health and the environment by containing and treating contamination as appropriate. The review concludes the remedial actions are effective and will continue to function well into the foreseeable future. Pantex is committed to continuing to operate the actions and make modifications to enhance effectiveness in the future.
“I’d like to congratulate the men and women who have worked so hard over the past 10 years to help clean up contamination at the Pantex Plant. Their dedication has allowed us to say with absolute assurance that Pantex is committed to protecting the people and the environment of the Texas Panhandle,” said NNSA Production Office Manager Steve Erhart.
The results of the CERCLA review and more information on environmental cleanup efforts at Pantex are available at www.pantex.com . The next Environmental Long Term Stewardship Public Meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m., December 2 at the Square House Museum in Panhandle.
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