U.S. DOE Gaseous Diffusion Plant
Site Summary ProfileEPA ID: KY8890008982
Location: Paducah, McCraken County, KY
Lat/Long: 37.120130, -088.811110
Congressional District: 01
NPL Status: Proposed: 05/10/93; Final: 05/31/94
Affected Media: Ground water, Liquid Waste, Sediment, Soil
Cleanup Status: Physical cleanup activities are underway
Human Exposure Under Control: Yes
Ground water Migration Under Control: No
Sitewide Ready for Anticipated Use: No
Site Reuse/Redevelopment: Active Facility
Site Manager: Turpin Ballard (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Current Site Status
The Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant (PGDP) site is the location of an active uranium enrichment plant owned by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). DOE, EPA and the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection (KDEP) have investigated site conditions and taken steps to clean up the site in order to protect people and the environment from contamination. The site's contamination does not threaten people living and working near the site. By cleaning up and monitoring soils and ground water, enforcing institutional controls, and undertaking Five-Year Reviews, DOE, EPA and KDEP continue to protect people and the environment from site contamination.
Site Location and Background
The site is located in northwestern Kentucky, about 10 miles west of Paducah and 3.5 miles south of the Ohio River. PGDP is located on about 750 acres of land that is fenced and secured. A DOE buffer zone surrounds PGDP. The West Kentucky Wildlife Management Area surrounds the buffer zone to the north, west and south and includes Big Bayou Creek and Little Bayou Creek. A coal-fired power plant is also located north of the buffer zone. Rural and agricultural areas surround the DOE buffer zone, the wildlife management area and the power plant.
Uranium-enrichment operations at the site began in 1952, and included several related facilities. PGDP provides fuel rods to nuclear power plants. DOE has been working to reduce contamination at the site since the 1980s.
In 1994, EPA listed the site on the NPL.
Threats and Contaminants
Site investigations found contamination in on-site ground water and soils as well as off-site sediments and surface water. Contaminants of concern for on-site ground water include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), technetium-99 and uranium. Contaminants of concern for off-site sediments and surface water near PGDP include uranium, thorium and transuranic elements (i.e., plutonium and neptunium). Contaminants of concern for on-site soils include trichloroethylene and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
In 1988, DOE found technetium-99 in an off-site drinking water well north of PGDP. DOE also found VOCs in nearby private wells and in on-site monitoring wells. DOE placed affected residences and businesses on an alternate water supply. After finding PCBs in on-site surface water and downstream of the plant in Big Bayou Creek and in Little Bayou Creek, DOE took steps to prevent the spread of contaminated ground water and restrict the use of surface water.
Since several schools are located near the site, DOE and KDEP evaluated whether potential radioactive contamination posed a risk to children’s health in 2009. The parties did not find any related risks.
The site's contamination is not a threat to nearby residents and businesses (i.e., human exposure is under control). The West McCracken Water District, a municipal utility, provides water supplies to residents and businesses in the area. The district’s water source is the Ohio River. Some residents with ground water wells unaffected by the site’s contamination also continue to use their wells.
Investigation and Cleanup Responsibility / Oversight
DOE leads the investigation and cleanup of the site, with oversight provided by EPA and KDEP.
Site Cleanup Plan
Site investigations and cleanup activities have focused on four areas, which EPA refers to as operable units, or OUs.
The Ground Water OU includes contaminated ground water affected by PGDP.
The Surface Water OU includes contaminated surface water bodies, outfall ditches, impoundment ponds, and Big Bayou and Little Bayou Creeks.
The Soils OU includes contaminated soils associated with PGDP that are not located in a waterway, outfall, ditch or burial ground.
The Burial Grounds OU includes contamination associated with site landfills and burial grounds.
DOE also named a fifth OU that will include areas DOE will investigate and clean up once PGDP eventually shuts down.
DOE and EPA have issued a series of cleanup plans (Records of Decision, or RODs) to address contamination across the OUs. For example, the 1998 cleanup plan (ROD) focused on cleaning up trichloroethylene-contaminated soil and ground water within Solid Waste Management Unit 91, part of the Ground Water OU.
Since 1988, DOE has taken steps to clean up soil and ground water contamination. These steps include removing contaminated soils and treating contaminated ground water. DOE made several improvements to the ground water treatment system in the 1990s and 2000s. DOE continues to search for contamination and plan more cleanup activities.
Cleanup Actions in the 1980s and 1990s
After finding ground water contamination in 1988, DOE placed affected residences and businesses on an alternate water supply, replacing contaminated drinking water wells. DOE also took steps to stop the spread of contaminated ground water and restrict the use of surface water.
In 1993 and 1995, DOE issued two cleanup plans (RODs) to address areas of highly contaminated ground water located north of PGDP.
In the late 1990s, DOE took several cleanup actions across the site. DOE removed areas highly contaminated with PCBs and used an innovative technology, known as Lasagna ™, to remove trichloroethylene in clayey soils.
In 1999, DOE issued a cleanup plan (ROD) for removing contaminated sediments in the North South Diversion Ditches, as part of the Surface Water OU. In 2004, DOE completed the early phases of this project.
Cleanup Actions in the 2000s
In 2005, DOE issued a cleanup plan (ROD) for removing trichloroethylene at the primary source area at the C-400 building.
In 2006, DOE finished removing 30,500 cubic yards of contaminated scrap metal at the scrap yard. DOE will work on contaminated soils under the former scrap pile as part of cleanup activities for the Soils OU.
In 2007 and 2008, DOE completed the removal of an inactive incinerator and smelter.
In 2009 and 2010, DOE removed contaminated soil and sediments on the site. DOE is also taking other steps, referred to as decontamination and decommissioning, at two buildings with resources from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
In 2010, DOE made improvements to the site’s ground water treatment system. DOE is now collecting and treating ground water contamination at the plant boundary.
The site’s second Five-Year Review, completed in 2009, found that institutional controls continue to protect people from remaining site contamination.
For many years, EPA has been working with its federal and state partners to clean up the site. The 1998 FFA for the site (PDF) (182 pp, 1MB, About PDF) outlines site cleanup schedules, priorities and enforceable milestones for DOE, EPA and the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
EPA has worked with the community and its state and federal partners to develop a long-term cleanup plan for the site, reflecting the Agency’s commitment to safe, healthy communities and environmental protection. Community engagement and public outreach are core components of EPA program activities.
EPA has conducted a range of community involvement activities to solicit community input and to make sure that the public remains informed about site activities throughout the cleanup process. Outreach efforts have included public notices, interviews and public meetings. PGDP representatives have also held environmental workshops to inform the community of any upcoming public meetings about proposed future cleanup plans for the site.
DOE also commissioned a Citizens Advisory Board (CAB) , which meets monthly to discuss cleanup activities and potential health issues associated with past operations and disposal activities at the site. The CAB’s purpose is to keep local citizens updated on site cleanup progress and related issues. Both EPA and KDEP participate in CAB activities.
Once PGDP eventually shuts down, DOE plans to take more cleanup actions before transferring the site to a new owner.
DOE is planning more investigations and cleanup activities under the site’s Federal Facilities Agreement and state Resource Conservation and Recovery Action hazardous waste permit. DOE has planned site investigation and cleanup activities through 2040. DOE’s long-term cleanup activities will likely go past 2040.
Due to the large amount of Superfund-related waste from deactivation and decommissioning and other cleanup activities, DOE is evaluating disposal options for site wastes, including the potential construction of an on-site disposal cell.
EPA completed the site’s last Five-Year Review in 2009 and plans to complete the next Five-Year Review in 2014.
EPA keeps additional site documents and information in a site information repository at the location below. EPA also posts site documents, when available, on EPA’s CERCLIS Site Profile page. For documents not available on the website, please contact the Region 4 Freedom of Information Office.
DOE Environmental Information Center
111 Memorial Drive
Paducah, KY 42001