The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Saturday, April 12, 2003

TCE cleanup retesting required
The widely praised process of removing TCE at the gaseous diffusion plant has to be double-checked because of lab problems.

By Bill Bartleman

Results of a two-year test of a new process to remove the potentially cancer-causing degreaser trichloroethylene (TCE) from soil at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant are in doubt because of problems found in a testing lab operated by a private contractor.

The so-called Lasagna project lasted for two years, and the initial results were so successful that the project ended in December, a year earlier than expected, according to Greg Cook, spokesman for Bechtel Jacobs, the company hired by the U.S. Department of Energy to oversee cleanup.

The work was paid for by DOE and cost more than $2 million. DOE recently gave a national award to those involved in the project because of its reported success. But additional testing is now necessary to confirm the conclusions that the TCE was removed from the soil at the levels reported, Cook said.

Officials at DOE were not available for comment Friday.

"We found a quality-assurance problem in the field lab that did most of the testing," Cook said. "We remain confident that the project met its goals, but we have to redo the testing."

The field lab was operated by CDM Federal Services, which also does other testing and cleanup at the plant.

Cook said the quality assurance included backup testing from an independent private lab to confirm CDM results. He said backup testing was supposed to have been done in September and December, but officials couldn't find the testing records. He said there also are doubts about other quality assurance at the lab, including calibrating equipment.

"As we looked into it, we found other problems," Cook said.

Officials don't know how long the testing problems existed, but the problems could have begun earlier than 2002, Cook said. The Lasagna project, which involved heating the soil and groundwater to remove the TCE, began in 1999.

Cook said the additional testing will be paid for by CDM Federal Services and will take six to eight weeks. He said no action has been taken against CDM by Bechtel Jacobs, and the firm is continuing to do work at the plant.

Cook said officials also will review testing done by CDM for other cleanup projects. They include testing of another new technology known as the "Six-Phase Heating System," in which efforts are being made to remove TCE from beneath the C-400 building; testing for a pump-and-treat process to remove contaminants from groundwater before it is released into a creek; and testing of water in several monitoring wells.