Portsmouth Excavations a Win for Waste Disposition, Cleanup, Site Reuse

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PIKE COUNTY, Ohio – Work is underway at The Department of Energy's Portsmouth Site on the first of five legacy groundwater plumes to be excavated for soil needed in the newly constructed On-Site Waste Disposal Facility (OSWDF).

“The five-million cubic-yard OSWDF requires a 2.4-to-1 ratio of fill material to waste,” said Jeff Bettinger, Portsmouth Site lead for DOE’s Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office. “By using soil from legacy groundwater plumes and old landfills onsite, we avoid buying clean fill for the OSWDF, expedite the environmental cleanup of the site, and provide more land for future reuse. It’s a win, win, win.”

Since the 1990s, plume contaminants — mainly the once-common degreasing solvent trichloroethylene — have been pumped from the ground and treated. Such operations tend to be slow and can be costly over time.

“By digging up the remaining contaminant sources and contaminated soils, the cleanup of the groundwater plumes is significantly accelerated,” Bettinger added.

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Removal and consolidation of legacy environmental concerns, including groundwater plumes and old landfills, also makes more land available for future community reuse and reindustrialization — a benefit for stakeholders who want to build a sustainable economic future at the site.

DOE has already begun the process of transferring clean parcels of land to the designated community reuse organization, the Southern Ohio Diversification Initiative. The first parcel, 80 acres, was transferred to the organization in 2018, and another 220 acres is scheduled for transfer this year.

The excavation, waste placement, and fill work is performed under a federal Natural Resources Damage Assessment settlement and final finding and order from the director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. These regulatory approvals authorize excavation of five existing groundwater plumes and five closed landfills.

Each individual landfill or plume requires an approved excavation work plan to ensure safety, protectiveness, and compliance with all applicable or relevant and appropriate requirements. The excavated materials will then be used as engineered fill in the OSWDF according to the approved waste acceptance criteria governing what is permissible for the disposal facility.

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