A publication of Appalachian Voices


A publication of Appalachian Voices

Across Appalachia

Proposed Landfill at Oak Ridge Sparks Controversy

On Nov. 7, a public meeting addessed concerns over a proposed landfill for Tennessee’s Oak Ridge Reservation, a 37,000-acre area that produced enriched uranium for nuclear weapons during World War II and the Cold War. Residents cited worries such as high levels of precipitation at the site and the management of contaminated water in nearby streams.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated the area as a Superfund site in 1989. UCOR is the official environmental cleanup contractor for the site and oversees the current waste treatments. In September, UCOR CEO Kenneth J. Rueter told The Oak Ridger that “future cleanup is threatened without another facility that provides the capacity to finish the cleanup in Oak Ridge.”

Clarkrange, Tenn., resident Sid Jones argued in a letter to the Oak Ridger that while the current facility is presented as an “unblemished success,” significant issues have occurred including flooding and the release of radioactive wastewater.

The Oak Ridge Quality Advisory Board Chairman told The Oak Ridger that he would like the U.S. Department of Energy to try a different solution — preferably one that removes waste from the site, noting that the ground below the proposed landfill is “like Swiss cheese.”

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation raised similar concerns in a public release which details “important issues that have not been resolved enough to gain state approval of [the Department of Energy’s] proposed plan.” These concerns include groundwater contamination, the transportation and handling of mercury and a lack of transparency regarding the amount of waste within the facility. — By Caelann Wood