January 12. 2011
OAK RIDGE – A high level of trichloroethylene, an industrial solvent, was found in one of the new monitoring wells installed across the river from Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s nuclear burial grounds, but Oak Ridge officials said it’s too early to determine if the pollution is linked to the old waste sites.
David Adler, an environmental scientist at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge office, said trichloroethylene – also known as TCE – is often associated with buried wastes on the government reservation, but he said the chemical compound is widely used as a degreaser and can also be found in many non-DOE locations.
“We are avoiding speculating on what the source is,” Adler said. “We’re just getting data to pin down what can and can’t be said.”
DOE contractors last year installed a series of monitoring wells on the west side of the Clinch River on properties near the Loudon County-Roane County border. The project is supposed to determine whether groundwater contaminated by the nuclear wastes could have somehow migrated – perhaps via cracks in underground rock formations – to properties on the other side of the Clinch.