OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Dec. 14, 2006 A new five-year project headed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory is expected to lead to a more in-depth understanding of natural and other approaches to clean up contaminated sites around the nation.The Department of Energy-funded $3 million per year task will build upon accomplishments since April 2000 at the Environmental Remediation Science Program Field Research Center, a 243-acre contaminated area in Bear Creek Valley next to the Oak Ridge Y-12 National Security Complex. This and many other sites in the United States are contaminated with legacy wastes that include radionuclides, organics and nitrate.
"Our goal is to more accurately determine the long-term fate of contaminants from waste sites around the country," said David Watson, manager of DOE's Field Research Center and a member of the Environmental Sciences Division. "Through this effort we will bring to bear experts from multiple universities and national laboratories to help solve a problem of great national significance."
Researchers from ORNL and elsewhere plan to develop numerical models that will allow them to predict the rate at which contaminant concentrations decrease through a combination of active remediation techniques and natural mechanisms such as dilution. Bioremediation, one of the remediation methods being tested, involves stimulating bacterial growth in the subsurface to clean up contaminants and may provide a more economical and effective approach than more conventional methods.
Researchers will make chemical additions and pH adjustments to help develop new methods to stabilize contaminants in the subsurface. New state-of-the-art analysis techniques are being developed to monitor changes in microbial populations and geochemical properties. Changes in the subsurface are being monitored using geophysical methods that send electric, acoustic and other signals into the ground.