Environmental Projects & Operations
The goal of the Environmental Projects Department is to protect human health and the environment. This program focuses on the environmental cleanup of soils and perched groundwater that were contaminated from past practices at Pantex. In order to achieve and document this goal, effective operation and maintenance of soil and groundwater cleanup actions and environmental monitoring are essential. Additionally, interpretation of regulatory drivers and subsequent reporting is required to effectively communicate the progress of cleanup actions to regulatory agencies and the public.
Operation and Maintenance of Cleanup Actions
Pantex operates and maintains several environmental remediation systems designed to affect cleanup of legacy environmental contaminants such as solvents, metals, perchlorate, and high explosives. This is accomplished using the most suitable technologies and approaches for Pantex groundwater and soil remediation.
Groundwater Pump and Treat Systems
Two Pump and Treat Systems, currently consisting of two treatment buildings, 72 extraction wells, and three injection wells are installed at Pantex. High explosives, solvents, and metals (hexavalent chromium and boron) are treated through systems that extract water from wells, remove the contaminants through granular activated carbon tanks and ion exchange resin beds, and then release the water for beneficial use or, as needed on a limited basis, injection back into the perched groundwater. Beneficial use of the treated water includes use for industrial activities, on-site irrigation systems operated by Texas Tech University Research Farm, and mixing with amendment for injection into the in situ bioremediation systems.
These systems are designed to reduce contaminant mass and saturated thickness of the perched aquifer. Reducing saturated thickness will significantly decrease the migration of contaminants both vertically and horizontally. The systems treat water to levels that are safe for residential use of the water.
In Situ Bioremediation Systems
Two in situ groundwater bioremediation systems consisting of 94 treatment zone wells are
installed at Pantex. The objective of the ISB systems is to establish and maintain a biologic treatment zone capable of reducing contaminants to levels that are safe for residential use by injecting the necessary amendment (food source and nutrients) to stimulate resident bacteria. The systems require amendment injection about every 12 to 18 months to continue bacterial activity and the breakdown of contaminants.
High explosives, perchlorate, hexavalent chromium, and trichlorethene are treated through the ISB systems. The Southeast ISB is located in an area that is sensitive to downward migration and designed to treat impacted water before it migrates to the Ogallala Aquifer. The Zone 11 ISB is designed to treat contaminants before they reach offsite property (Texas Tech University Research Farm) south of Pantex.
Soil Vapor Extraction System
The purpose of the Soil Vapor Extraction System is to clean up subsurface soils at the Burning Ground that contain solvents. Solvents such as TCE, acetone, and toluene are removed from soils at the Burning Ground by applying a vacuum in a well designed for vapor removal. The organic vapors extracted are then destroyed in the catalytic oxidizer, which results in hydrochloric acid formation. The acid is removed from the air stream using a wet scrubber and is then neutralized into salt water, which is disposed of as normal wastewater.
Institutional and Engineered Controls
Institutional controls at Pantex include deed restrictions restricting the use of soil and groundwater as well as engineered controls, which protect workers and the public from exposure to affected soils. These controls include fences, landfill covers, and a ditch liner. Engineered controls are routinely inspected to ensure they are properly operating and protective of human health and underlying groundwater.
The Solid Waste Management Unit Interference program is considered an institutional control protecting on-site workers from exposure to affected soil. The SWMU Interference Coordinator manages permits for soil penetration or disruption to ensure that worker protection requirements are followed. A SWMU can be any area with suspected or documented releases of hazardous constituents. SWMUs are from legacy Pantex operations.
The environmental monitoring program supports the Environmental Projects, Environmental Compliance, and Waste Management Programs and involves the physical collection of surface water, groundwater, storm water, drinking water, soil, vegetation, air, and fauna samples from several hundred sampling location around the site. The goal of the monitoring program is to produce high reliability analytical data used to make environmental management decisions, which protect human health and the environment, and to demonstrate compliance with regulatory standards and permit limits. To accomplish this, the sampling and analysis section employs a wide array of specialized sampling equipment, GPS instrumentation, and well maintenance equipment, providing highly responsive, on-demand field services at Pantex.
This program fulfills the groundwater monitoring, operation, and maintenance of cleanup action wells at Pantex. This group, along with the groundwater media scientist, develops all monitoring plans and procedures, sets up contracts with laboratories for analysis of samples, maintains and populates environmental databases, and maintains the wells in accordance with regulatory requirements and an established well maintenance plan.
Environmental Reporting and Community Involvement
Environmental Projects provides progress reporting for the cleanup actions in accordance with the Compliance Plan and Interagency Agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Quarterly, annual, and five-year review reporting is provided to regulatory agencies and made available for the public in the Pantex administrative record and on this website on the Environmental Cleanup Documents page. Pantex maintains an administrative record that is composed of a collection of documents that form the basis for selecting a remedy for site cleanup, compliance documents, and progress reporting for the cleanup actions. A copy of the administrative record is available at the Amarillo Downtown Public Library, 413 E. 4th, Amarillo, Texas.
Want Information or to Become More Involved?
Pantex actively informs and involves the community in important issues through mailings, public meetings, newsletters, this website, and the news media, as necessary. Pantex holds annual public meetings (first Monday in November) to inform and involve the public in the progress of the Environmental Cleanup. A Neighbor Newsletter is published annually to provide the neighbors with general news from the Plant as well as the progress of the cleanup actions. If you need information or would like to be added to the Pantex mailing list, e-mail Pantex Communications.