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This webpage contains historic information and is not being updated.
See the Fernald Preserve webpage for current site information.

Transition to Cleanup
A New Beginning

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Cleanup field work (6383-274).
Cleanup field work (6383-274).

It was not until the 1970s and 1980s that the general populace became aware of the industrial revolution’s effect on the environment, and the cost and magnitude of the resulting cleanup effort. 

Many of the environmental, safety and health regulations that are now applicable at the Fernald site did not exist when the plant was in full production.  Nearly 38 years of uranium metal production and storage and disposal of waste and nuclear material left the soil, groundwater and site structures contaminated.  

To begin addressing the contamination problems at the Fernald site, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a notice of noncompliance to the Department of Energy (DOE) in 1985, identifying potential environmental impacts associated with the site’s operations.  For the next year, DOE and EPA representatives met to discuss the issues and identify a plan of action to achieve and maintain environmental compliance at the site.

On July 18, 1986, three years before site management shut down plant operations to focus on environmental compliance and waste management, DOE and EPA signed the Federal Facilities Compliance Agreement (FFCA).  The purpose of this legally binding agreement was to ensure Fernald’s compliance with existing environmental statutes and regulations such as the Clean Air Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).  A federal law enacted in 1980, CERCLA regulates the cleanup of hazardous, toxic and radioactive substances. It also created a trust fund, called Superfund, to finance the investigation and cleanup of releases to the environment.  The 1986 amendment to CERCLA required DOE and other federal agencies to cleanup their facilities under the FFCA with EPA. 

In 1990, DOE and EPA signed a Consent Agreement that established milestones for the RI/FS, amending the original FFCA.  One year later DOE and EPA signed an amended Consent Agreement revising the schedules for completing the RI/FS.

Under CERCLA, the site initiated a remedial investigation/feasibility study (RI/FS), a comprehensive environmental investigation conducted in and around Fernald to identify the nature and extent of contamination and determine the best cleanup solutions.  For the next few years, Fernald personnel were on a learning curve to determine the best way to implement this large-scale investigation.  Since some areas of the site were more problematic and complicated, the RI/FS team divided the site into five operable units based on location, physical characteristics and the potential for using similar technologies during cleanup.  The operable units included:  the waste pit area; other waste units; the 136-acre production area; Silos  1 – 4; and environmental media (soil, groundwater, etc.).

After completing extensive sampling and analysis of soil, water and other media, Fernald engineers and scientists worked with regulators and DOE to determine methods of removing or containing the contamination.  DOE held a series of public meetings to seek input on the cleanup alternatives, and adopted final cleanup remedies for each operable unit.  In all, the RI/FS lasted 10 years, resulting in legally binding cleanup remedies that are the foundation of Fernald’s environmental remediation mission.

While the site was engaged in the RI/FS, there were several environmental issues that needed immediate attention.  To address these concerns, Fernald initiated 31 short-term cleanup projects, called removal actions.  Under the National Contingency Plan, DOE had the authority to react immediately to eliminate potential environmental, health or safety risks without waiting until the RI/FS was completed, although removal actions required limited public participation.  Some of Fernald’s removal actions included dismantling the 14 Plant 1 ore silos that were in poor condition, installing bentonite caps on Silos 1 and 2 to reduce radon emissions, neutralizing and packaging uranyl nitrate inventory, and pumping and treating contaminated water from extraction wells underneath several production plants. 

There were many changes and events over the years that impacted Fernald’s transition to cleanup.  In 1989, after nearly 38 years of uranium production operations, site management shut down metal production to concentrate on environmental compliance and waste management issues.  That same year, EPA placed Fernald on the National Priorities List, a compilation of Superfund sites most in need of cleanup.  In 1991, Congress formally approved the closure of site production operations and authorized its new environmental remediation mission.  One year later, DOE awarded the first environmental remediation contract to FERMCO, later renamed Fluor Fernald.  Fluor Fernald has  managed the site’s cleanup activities since 1992 and will complete site remediation in compliance with its November 2000 final cleanup closure contract. 

To streamline and integrate the numerous remediation and closure requirements of CERCLA and RCRA, DOE, Fluor Fernald and Ohio EPA signed the Directors' Final Findings and Orders in June 1996. The agreement required that DOE and Fluor Fernald prepare one remediation plan to comply with both CERCLA and RCRA, and that sampling and analyses costs associated with RCRA closure activities be integrated into CERCLA remediation activities, eliminating duplicative sampling efforts.  In the end, implementation of these integrated closure requirements would save taxpayers millions of dollars and accelerate site cleanup. 

About Fernald
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Together, DOE and Fluor Fernald were committed to safely restoring the 
Fernald site to an end state that serves the needs of the community.