Pantex is home to a diverse wildlife population. From large and small mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians, down to the tiniest insect, just about any creature that calls the Panhandle home, is right out our back door. We keep interactions down to a minimum, but the occasional swallow or curious snake encounter has to be addressed.
Recently, our wildlife biologist found himself and two other employees having to deal with a large population of bees. They were becoming increasingly agitated by weed eaters and yard equipment. So, biologist Jim Ray, along with Monty Schoenhals and plant employee/bee keeper Joe Froeschle, had the formidable task of moving the hive from its location just outside the northern boundary of Playa 1 in a drip irrigation system, with minimum injury to themselves or the bees.
“This hive created a safety hazard for personnel that access the valve box for operation and maintenance of the irrigation system, “according to Pantex Wildlife biologist, Jim Ray. “In fact, the hive was discovered when several personnel operating weed-eaters were chased out of the area by the bees. The workers received several stings.”
A typical hive contains between 50,000 and 80,000 bees, and best guess is this one fell into that category. Using a homemade bee extractor out of a shop-vac, the bees were gathered up and re-located to Joe’s house, to join his other colonies. They believe the queen was extracted without harm, since bees swarm to their queen wherever she is and the relocated honey gatherers appear to be going about their business.
“Whenever a hive is encountered our first consideration is whether or not the hive is accessible to where we can remove it and transfer it to a beekeeper,” according to Ray.
Bees are considered an indicator of how well or how poorly the local environment is faring. As pollinators, bees play a part in every aspect of the ecosystem. They support the growth of trees, flowers, and other plants, which serve as food and shelter. In fact, pollinators like bees, play a key role in one out of every three bites of food we eat. Without them, many plants we rely on for food would die off.
“Our choice to spare this hive and transfer it into the care of a beekeeper is within the spirit of national pollinator initiatives, where federal agencies have been tasked to protect and promote pollinators – pollinators support entire ecosystems and many species of pollinators are in decline,” added Ray.
The relocation of this hive is considered a success. The newly-homed pollinators are settling into their new digs alongside other bees, Pantex workers who were at risk from bees due to their proximity while performing work are safe, and though it’s hard to believe by looking at the photos and the sheer number of bees involved, but the three completed the task, without issue.
The hive/honeycomb were found on the underside of a wastewater lid.
Using a homemade bee removal shop-vac tool, the bees were vacuumed up and moved to Joe’s house to join other hives.
The honeycomb is also removed while bees swarm around the collectors.
A small portion of the bee colony that was re-located for the Pantex workers’ safety and theirs.
Pantex’s new firetrucks await duty
Very soon after the John C. Drummond center opened in 2018, Pantex got a new firetruck, the only one of its kind in the U.S. and only second worldwide at the time. It was designed to take a rescue crew up over the ledge of the roof of the JCDC and then articulate back down to the roof to assist in rescues. Now, the Pantex Fire Department is again adding to its growing fleet with three new unique trucks being brought into the fold.
The new trucks are each designed for different response capabilities. They provide Pantex firefighters with reliable vehicles to put out fires, make rescues, mitigate hazardous material releases, and save lives on plant site while helping our mutual aid partners.
First, a traditional structure fire engine, is replacing one that’s more than 25 years old. It is a multipurpose vehicle with firefighting and rescue capabilities related to fires and motor vehicle accidents.
The second unit eliminates a truck almost 30 years old and will be used for heavy rescue and major motor vehicle accidents, along with rescues with extreme angle elevations, towers, trench rescues, and a building collapse. It will be used for highway rescue operations on major roads as well as the county roads in Carson, Potter, and Armstrong Counties.
Finally, the third is a hazardous materials unit, designed to replace a heavy rescue unit from 1986, which was re-purposed in 2003 for hazardous material. This unit will respond to hazmat releases and spills as its primary function to define chemicals including the stop, release, and isolation of the substance. It will have the capability to carry level A and B hazmat suits and equipment for decontamination of firefighters and patients.
The new hazardous materials truck
According to Daniel Gleaves, Pantex Emergency Services Senior Director, “The addition of these new fire apparatus significantly enhances responder safety and response capability for both the site and the surround community, which will in return prevent injuries to our Firefighters and potentially save lives both on and off site.”
The ergonomic designs, and new unit’s safety features inside the passenger compartment area, chevron reflectors, and LED lights will help keep Pantex Firefighters safer when they are responding to emergencies in these new vehicles, too.
“These trucks allow us to provide modern vehicles that incorporate the best features for providing service to the community and safety for our personnel. The design of the trucks allows us to provide better, more efficient service to the plant and our mutual aid partners,” added Pantex Fire Chief Mike Brock.
With the addition of the new apparatus and on-board life-saving equipment, the Pantex Fire Department offers dependable response capabilities for years to come with reduced maintenance costs due to new design and parts availability. The new firetrucks also help fulfill our mutual aid agreement with nearby towns and cities to respond and assist when requested to do so.
Building 12-106 in process of demolition at Pantex.
More than ever before, the landscape of Pantex and Y-12 is changing. In FY 2020 alone, 46 infrastructure projects were completed, and an impressive 21 facilities (11 at Pantex and 10 at Y-12) were demolished.
Diane McDaniel, senior director for Excess Facilities Disposition, has challenged the disposition team with a stretch goal to achieve 100 total demolitions within the years of FY 2015 and FY 2021.
“The disposition team is made up of approximately 50 individual contributors representing all organizations at Y-12 and Pantex. These team members, along with an outstanding subcontractor community and the NNSA Production Office, are the key to the program’s success. Because of their dedication and focus, the CNS disposition program is held up as the example for the other NNSA sites across the country,” McDaniel said.
CNS teams worked diligently to meet their FY 2020 goals during the COVID-019 mission critical operations so that they would be ready to hit the ground running to accomplish as much as possible within the safety envelope when they returned to the site.
“We have never attempted, much less achieved, that many dispositions and square footage of almost 30,000 square feet this year at Pantex,” said Pantex Excess Facility Disposition Program Manager Jennifer Simms. “We continue to achieve more facilities and square feet every single year. We are really ramping up and changing the landscape of the site one demo at a time.”
“Demolitions are important to reduce the site footprint and eliminate facilities that present significant hazards. We have to remove the old to make way for new mission essential facilities,” said Y-12 Excess Facility Disposition Program Manager Kevin Bradford.
“Because we are reducing the footprint with demos, it gives us the opportunity to work with NNSA to obtain the funding needed for new facilities,” said Laura Fox, Pantex Projects Management. “These new facilities will provide greatly improved working conditions for our personnel, as well as provide greater reliability of facility systems.”
Planning for demolition starts no less than two years before the building is actually torn down. Many times, characterization of hazards within and around the facility, location and condition of utilities, and other factors must be known ahead of even starting the drawings that must be produced and provided to contractors for bid.
“Taking down old facilities is always challenging,” Fox said. “Many times, the drawings from when these facilities were constructed are either not available or are unreliable.”
She said it is truly a team effort between organizations including Projects, Procurement, Engineering, Construction Management, and the contractor who work hand in hand to overcome issues and get these buildings down.
New behind the scenes challenges for FY 2021 demolitions are already being reviewed for another 21 planned demolitions next year and more than 25 in FY 2023.
Congratulations to Pantexans Jeremy Baker and Kim Bush who were recognized by the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce as members of the 2020 Top 20 Under 40.
The award is given annually to area early career professionals who demonstrate professional excellence and bring value to the Amarillo business community.
Baker has been at Pantex almost 13 years and is currently the C-Shift captain for the Pantex Fire Department.
He graduated from Caprock High School and has Associate of Applied Science degrees in Paramedicine and Fire Protection Technology from Amarillo College. He also graduated this year with a bachelor’s degree in Fire and EMS Administration from Eastern New Mexico University.
Baker holds a number of certifications in addition to Paramedic and Firefighter including Texas Infection Control Officer, American Heart Association Life Support Instructor, and Texas Commission of Fire Hazmat Tech.
In his free time, Baker teaches American Heart Association courses, works part-time as faculty for the Amarillo College Emergency Medical Services Professionals program, and works part-time as a paramedic for Amarillo Medical Services.
Baker is married and has two children.
Bush has worked at Pantex for 13 years and is currently a Materials Engineering manager. She has held many roles at Pantex and worked her way up from an entry-level scientist. She has worked as a process engineer, scientist, and Safety Analysis Engineering analyst. Other contributions include work in such departments as Manufacturing, Environmental Stewardship (NEPA and Air Quality), Tooling and Machine Design, and Explosives Technology.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and Biology, master’s degree in Environmental Science, and is pursuing a doctorate in Systems and Engineering Management.
While at Pantex, Bush has been part of a group that received an NA-50 award this year.
In her free time, Bush volunteers as the committee chair for Pack 301 with the Boy Scouts, soccer coach for Kids, Inc., and a volunteer Sunday school teacher for Polk Street United Methodist Church where she is a member. When time allows, she volunteers at the High Plains Food Bank and Snack Pak 4 Kids.
Bush is married and has two children.
To be eligible for the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce Top 20 under 40 Award, the candidates must be employed in the area for at least three years and in the same field during that time, though not necessarily at the same businesses. Winners were selected by judges who reviewed nominations and picked the top 20 award winners as up-and-coming Amarillo professionals who are standouts in their professions.
Facility will replace 15 obsolete facilities at Pantex with average age of 68 years
AMARILLO, Texas – On Dec. 8, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) marked an infrastructure modernization milestone with an internal groundbreaking ceremony to begin construction of the High Explosive Science and Engineering (HESE) facility at the Pantex Plant.
Read full press release on the NNSA website.