Superfund Information Systems: Site Profile

Superfund Site:

PANTEX PLANT (USDOE)
PANTEX VILLAGE, TX

Cleanup Activities

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Background

The Pantex Plant site is located 17 miles northeast of Amarillo, in Carson County, Texas. It is an active federal facility owned by the U.S. Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration (USDOE/NNSA) and managed and operated by Babcock and Wilcox Technical Services Pantex, LLC (B&W Pantex). The facility covers about 16,000 acres; 10,000 of these acres are owned by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and 6,000 acres are leased from Texas Tech University (TTU). The acreage leased from TTU serves as a buffer zone for site safety and security. Plant operations contaminated soil and groundwater with hazardous chemicals. Following construction of the site’s remedy, long-term groundwater cleanup is ongoing.

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What Has Been Done to Clean Up the Site?

The site is being addressed through federal actions.

EPA has conducted several five-year reviews of the site’s remedy. These reviews ensure that the remedies put in place protect public health and the environment, and function as intended by site decision documents. The most recent review concluded that response actions at the site are in accordance with the remedy selected by EPA and that the remedy continues to be protective of human health and the environment in the short term. All soil remedies are performing as designed and expected. Institutional controls and engineered controls (e.g., fencing, protective covers and ditch liner) currently protect workers and the general public from exposure to soil by restricting access and from impacted perched groundwater by restricting use, drilling and access. These measures are expected to continue to be protective. The groundwater pump-and-treat systems (SEPTS and PIPTS) are operating and functioning as designed. The SVE system is removing soil gas and residual non-aqueous phase liquids (NAPLs) in soils to protect the underlying drinking water aquifer.

To achieve long-term protectiveness of human health and the environment, operation and maintenance of the remedial action systems must continue and enhancements to existing systems need to be evaluated, planned and implemented.

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What Is the Current Site Status?

The site’s long-term remedy, selected in 2008, addressed 47 contaminated soil units and, in particular, contaminated perched groundwater. Remedies for contaminated soil included soil vapor extraction (SVE), containment and covering, and institutional controls to restrict access and land use. The final remedy for contaminated groundwater included pumping and treatment, in-place bioremediation to treat high explosive contaminants, and institutional controls to restrict usage.

The main focus at the site is long-term cleanup of a perched layer of groundwater. Four systems have been implemented to address different aspects of the plume of contaminants: the Playa 1 Pump-and-Treat System, the Southeast Pump-and-Treat System, the Southeast In-Situ Bioremediation (ISB) System, and the Zone 11 ISB System.

Site activities have also included numerous interim corrective measures (ICMs) that reduced the risk to human health and the environment once posed by the soil units. ICMs were implemented to reduce risk identified through the investigations, primarily between 1996 and 2003. These ICMs addressed 57 soil units by minimizing direct contact risk to on-site workers and impacts to the environment (i.e., transport through the ditches to the playas or through the soil column to groundwater). Interim early actions included removal of more than 25,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil, construction of landfill covers, deactivation and decommissioning of facilities at major release areas, lining ditches near a major release area in Zone 12, and construction/operation of SVE systems in Zone 11 and at the Burning Ground.

 

The Pantex Plant was established in 1942 to build conventional munitions and high explosives compounds in support of World War II. The facility was deactivated in 1945 and sold to Texas Technological University, currently known as Texas Tech University (TTU), subject to recall by the War Assets Administration. TTU used the property for agricultural purposes until 1951, when the Pantex Plant was reclaimed for use by the Atomic Energy Commission as a nuclear weapons production facility. Portions of the conventional weapons plant were renovated, and new facilities were built for the manufacture of high explosive compounds. Current operations include the development, testing and fabrication of high explosive components; nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly; interim storage of plutonium and weapon components; and component surveillance.

Historical waste management practices have included thermal treatment of explosives, explosive components, and contaminated liquids and solvents (including test residues of explosives and depleted uranium); burial of industrial, construction and sanitary waste in unlined landfills; disposal of solvents in pits or sumps; discharge of untreated industrial wastewaters to unlined ditches and playas; and the use of surface impoundments for the disposal of chemical constituents. These practices resulted in the release of chemical and radionuclide constituents to the environment.

The Pantex Plant was established in 1942 to build conventional munitions and high explosives compounds in support of World War II. The facility was deactivated in 1945 and sold to Texas Technological University, currently known as Texas Tech University (TTU), subject to recall by the War Assets Administration. TTU used the property for agricultural purposes until 1951, when the Pantex Plant was reclaimed for use by the Atomic Energy Commission as a nuclear weapons production facility. Portions of the conventional weapons plant were renovated, and new facilities were built for the manufacture of high explosive compounds. Current operations include the development, testing and fabrication of high explosive components; nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly; interim storage of plutonium and weapon components; and component surveillance.

Historical waste management practices have included thermal treatment of explosives, explosive components, and contaminated liquids and solvents (including test residues of explosives and depleted uranium); burial of industrial, construction and sanitary waste in unlined landfills; disposal of solvents in pits or sumps; discharge of untreated industrial wastewaters to unlined ditches and playas; and the use of surface impoundments for the disposal of chemical constituents. These practices resulted in the release of chemical and radionuclide constituents to the environment.

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