By Joe Walker firstname.lastname@example.org
An environmental group has lost a bid in federal court to block a Department of Energy study of cleaning contaminated groundwater by allowing water to flow through an underground treatment "zone."
U.S. District Judge Thomas Russell of Paducah denied a motion Friday by the Regional Association of Concerned Environmentalists (RACE) for a temporary injunction. RACE had sought to prevent DOE from installing a permeable treatment zone in the path of one of three groundwater contamination plumes leading north from the plant.
The group maintained that before conducting the test, the department should assess its environmental impact. By being called a "study," the project was outside the scope of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act under which DOE was proceeding, RACE said.
"This argument is simply unavailing in the face of agency regulations and clear case precedent," Russell ruled.
DOE's proposed system would test how well treatment zones remove trichloroethylene, an industrial cleaning solvent, and technetium-99, a radioactive substance, from huge quantities of groundwater flowing from the plant to the Ohio River.
Both contaminants, which are related to past plant activities, have been found in the wells of some neighbors who are members of RACE. DOE has provided free city water to nearly 100 homes around the plant.
Although pump-and-treat systems are in place, DOE says those are effective only in limiting migration from the most heavily contaminated areas of the plant. The department says treatment zones are potentially more effective in treating vast amounts of groundwater, but RACE is concerned about environmental harm the treatment might cause.