Department of Energy, Oak Ridge Operations - Oak Ridge, TN
(Certified Best Practice by BMPCOE)
The Y-12 Plant at Oak Ridge employs a unique system to control any hazardous waste spill that may occur into the nearby East Fork Poplar Creek. The East Fork Poplar Creek runs through the Y-12 Plant, the Y-12 constructed "New Reality" pond, and eventually flows into the Clinch River.
Actually a tertiary level of spill protection, this system operates only after the first and second levels of containment have failed. If necessary, the tertiary system uses a combination of creek surface skimming, spill containment, and creek diversion to prevent spilled materials from contaminating surface water systems.
As the first element of the tertiary control system, an oil skimmer has been installed immediately downstream from Y-12. The skimmer will remove spilled material floating on the creek surface. Unremoved surface contaminants and submerged contaminants not picked up by the skimmer flow into the New Reality Pond. In the event of a spill, the pond outflow can be shut off so that contaminated creek water can be contained. When the contaminated portion of the creek has been captured in the pond, creek entry to the pond is terminated, and the creek is diverted around the pond. The contained water can then be treated in the pond.
The unique capability to divert the natural flow of East Fork Poplar Creek allows Y-12 to protect against surface water contamination which has previously been traced as far as Chattanooga. The diversion concept may be applicable to other large government and private industry sites, and the expertise of the system creators could benefit a variety of facilities with similar spill control challenges.