Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson received two interim reports last week on actions to protect groundwater at the department's Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas.
One report focusing on the plant's groundwater monitoring program confirms last year Pantex Plant operators did not follow DOE procedures, resulting in an approximate nine month delay in notifying senior managers and the public of newly discovered groundwater contamination at the site.
Steps are now being taken to determine the extent of the contamination, however, to date no trichloroethylene (TCE) has been detected in the Ogallala Aquifer beyond the boundaries of the plant.
The second report, focusing on environmental remediation, recommends a two-phase approach to characterizing the extent of TCE in the groundwater.
It also outlines innovative technologies that can be used to monitor and remove risks associated with TCE and other potential groundwater contaminants.
"It's our responsibility to keep the Ogallala Aquifer clean for people who live near Pantex and the many others who depend on it. We've also got to make sure the public is promptly informed of our environmental monitoring results," said Richardson. "I am carefully reviewing these two reports, and I have opened up the process for anyone who wishes to make comments on them as we come to our final assessment this May."
The department is asking the public to comment on the reports over the next two weeks.
Richardson noted that many of the issues -- such as clear and immediate reporting procedures and several groundwater characterization improvements -- are already being addressed by Pantex management as a result of research and compilation of these two reports.
Pantex is now being managed by the new semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).
The public is encouraged to make comments on both interim reports at a public meeting today in Amarillo or by sending written comments by April 21 to addresses provided in the reports.