Jul 27, 2009

Construction Begins on Hanford Groundwater Treatment System

Plant in Washington State will open five years earlier than planned, aided by stimulus funding

Aided by $80 million in federal stimulus funding, work is beginning on a new groundwater treatment system in Hanford, Wash., The News Tribune reported.

"This new groundwater treatment facility brings together all the technology at our disposal," Ines Triay, Department of Energy (DOE) assistant secretary for environmental management, said. "We're extremely pleased with this technology advancement."

DOE had planned to construct the new plant in phases, but the funding allows the construction of a larger facility in one phase, resulting in a projected savings of about $25 million from enabling the treatment plant to operate at full capacity five years earlier than planned, the newspaper reported.

"This treatment will not only remove contamination but also shrink the area of contamination so it won't move from the center of the Hanford Site to the river," said Dave Brockman, manager of the DOE Hanford Richland Operations Office.

Design is under way, and the first wells are being drilled. About 100 people will be hired as construction starts, and about eight people will be employed when it opens in December 2011, the newspaper reported.

Currently, a temporary plant is pumping about 300 gal of water a minute out of the ground and treating it for carbon tetrachloride.

The new plant will pump up to 2,000 to 2,500 gal of water a minute and operate 24 hours a day. Cleaned water will be reinjected into the ground in key places to contain contamination and move it toward the wells that pump out the water.

The new treatment system also will have its own wells to pump up the water and reinject it. The new wells (as many as 34 eventually) will be deeper than the current wells.

During the Cold War, contaminated liquid was discharged from T Plant and the Plutonium Finishing Plant, ultimately leaving five square miles of groundwater contaminated above drinking water levels.

"With this new pump and treat system, we usher in a new era of groundwater treatment at Hanford," Triay said.