A new mercury treatment facility will be constructed at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge. The new facility, in the wroks for several years, will help reduce the amount of mercury that gets into East Fork Poplar Creek and allow the demolition of four large buildings where mercury was used to help make nuclear weapons during the Cold War
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, and Deputy Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette attended Monday’s groundbreaking.
Many of the buildings used for operations at Y-12 have mercury contamination and are in varying states of deterioration. According to a release from the Department of Energy, the treatment facility will lower existing mercury levels from past releases. The facility is anticipated to reduce mercury concentrations in Y-12’s water by 84 percent.
It will also serve as a guard against a potential increase in releases as mercury-contaminated buildings are demolished.
Site preparation for the new Mercury Treatment Facility is expected to start this year, with the rest of construction beginning in late 2018. The facility is expected to start operating in late 2022.
According to our partners at Oak Ridge Today, the Mercury Treatment Facility will actually have two facilities in two separate areas. The first, known as the headworks facility, will capture water traveling from the western side of the site. It will be built at a spot known as Outfall 200 where the storm drain system at Y-12 discharges at the headwaters of Upper East Fork Poplar Creek.
The second part of the Mercury Treatment Facility will be the treatment facility itself. It will be built on the eastern side of Y-12. Water will flow through a pipeline from the headworks facility to the treatment facility. The treatment facility will be able to treat 3,000 gallons of water per minute, and it will include a two-million-gallon storage tank to collect stormwater.
Alexander said $40 million has been spent on mercury remediation and another $17 million is planned by the end of the year, or $57 million total.
The project is expected to cost more, possibly a few hundred million dollars total, including operational costs over a few decades.
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