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Oak Ridge EM Program Increases Focus on Mercury Cleanup

May 7, 2013 - 12:00pm

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Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Robert Martineau, left to right, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Oak Ridge EM Manager Mark Whitney, EM Senior Advisor Dave Huizenga and EPA Deputy Regional Administrator for Region 4 Stan Meiburg gathered for the announcement on mercury cleanup.

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Robert Martineau, left to right, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Oak Ridge EM Manager Mark Whitney, EM Senior Advisor Dave Huizenga and EPA Deputy Regional Administrator for Region 4 Stan Meiburg gathered for the announcement on mercury cleanup.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.EM Senior Advisor Dave Huizenga recently joined local lawmakers and state and federal officials to announce their partnership to increase focus on cleanup of mercury — one of Oak Ridge’s greatest environmental threats — at the Y-12 National Security Complex.

"We fully understand the need to address the mercury contamination issue at Y-12, and the mercury treatment facility at Outfall 200 is the cornerstone of that strategy,” said Huizenga. “I have full confidence in the team here, and I’m excited about the opportunity to work with them as we develop plans to address not only mercury, but all of the cleanup challenges in Oak Ridge."

The event also featured Oak Ridge Office EM Manager Mark Whitney, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Robert Martineau and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Deputy Regional Administrator for Region 4 Stan Meiburg.

Whitney said the EM program completed the conceptual design for a new mercury water treatment facility at Y-12 in March. He said he anticipated construction beginning in 2017 and operations starting in 2020. The proposed $120 million facility can treat 1,500 gallons of water per minute.

The mercury water treatment facility will be constructed at Outfall 200, the most significant source of mercury contamination entering the Upper East Fork Poplar Creek. This facility is a crucial project before the EM program can start demolishing old mercury facilities at Y-12 — Alpha 2, Alpha 4, Alpha 5 and Beta 4. The new facility will capture mercury that escapes from beneath the facilities during and after demolition, ensuring it does not travel offsite.

The mercury in Y-12’s environment derives from decades of past operations. A portion of the inventory leaked from pipes and machines using the element. Overall, an estimated 700,000 pounds of mercury were lost into the environment. 

However, with a unified commitment to focus on mercury remediation and new projects addressing the issue, Oak Ridge’s EM program grows closer to environmental restoration.

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