Ariel view of the Hematite Radioactive Site

The Hematite former Fuel Cycle Facility is located near the unincorporated village of Hematite. The site is owned by the Westinghouse Electric Company LLC. Between 1956 and 2001, the main activity at the site was nuclear reactor uranium fuel production; first, for U.S. Department of Defense reactors, and later, for commercial reactors. The facility consists of approximately 228 acres, of which eight of those acres were used for fuel manufacturing. A variety of non-nuclear chemical products were also stored on-site and used in various stages of the fuel manufacturing process. Sampling results from on-site groundwater monitoring wells and nearby residential drinking water wells contained volatile organic compound contamination associated with site operations

Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Role

The department's Federal Facilities Section provides state oversight for the environmental investigation and cleanup of the non-nuclear chemical contamination associated with this site. Department staff also coordinate with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and other state programs when appropriate.

Contacts

Overview

The Problem

Samples obtained from on-site groundwater monitoring wells and several residential water-supply wells near the site identified volatile organic compound (VOC) contamination associated with site operations. Short-term response included extending a public water supply main and connections to affected residential areas. Nuclear activities at the site were initially regulated under the provisions of a license issued by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and later by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). In addition to chemical contamination, a remedial investigation identified uranium and technetium in site buildings and soils at levels that could pose unacceptable risk from long-term individual exposure. Radioactive contamination regulated by the NRC was cleaned up under the provisions of a decommissioning plan approved by that agency and implemented by Westinghouse. In 2018, the NRC deemed the decommissioning plan to have been completed successfully. 

Although a large amount of chemical contamination was removed during radiological cleanup, residual contamination remains in the soil on-site. Some of the soil contamination areas are source areas for continuing groundwater contamination. Groundwater contamination remains across a significant part of the site and in limited off-site areas where sample results indicate that contaminant levels and extent are decreasing. If the residual soil contamination is not addressed, normal fluctuations in groundwater elevation will continue to move the residual contamination between soil and groundwater, possibly extending the amount of time needed for natural reduction of contamination.

VOC contamination remaining in the soil and groundwater around and beneath buildings on-site could pose a health risk from vapor intrusion for long-term occupants of remaining site buildings. Any future structures built over contaminated areas of the site could also pose a risk to building occupants. Groundwater contamination has traveled off-site and would pose an unacceptable risk if water supply wells were to be installed in the contaminated layers of soil and bedrock.

Contaminants of Concern

The initial chemical contaminants of concern in soils were identified as chlorinated VOCs, polyaromatic hydrocarbons and arsenic. The main contaminants remaining in soil and groundwater are perchloroethylene (PCE), trichloroethylene (TCE) and their breakdown products: 1, 2 cis dichloroethylene, 1, 2 trans dichloroethylene, and vinyl chloride.

What’s Been Done

From 2012 to 2016, over 115,000 cubic yards of radioactive and chemically contaminated soil and debris were removed and transported to out-of-state facilities by truck or rail. Additional investigation and treatability studies are underway to help identify the most efficient approach to future remediation. Quarterly groundwater monitoring continues to ensure against unexpected further spread of contamination. Sample results indicate that groundwater contaminant levels are decreasing in residential areas and the extent appears to be retreating back towards the direction of site source areas.

What’s Left

A large amount of chemical contamination was removed during radiological cleanup. During a public meeting in June 2016, Westinghouse reported that an estimated 20,000 cubic yards of residual chemical soil contamination remains. Groundwater contamination remains across a significant portion of the site and in limited off-site areas where concentration and aerial extent are decreasing. In order to prevent any risk of exposure from vapor intrusion and groundwater usage, residual chemical soil and groundwater contamination must be cleaned up or land use restrictions developed and put into effect.

Looking to the Future

Some parts of the 228-acre facility, particularly those that are not contaminated above soil or groundwater risk-based levels, could be used for any purpose if there were suitable restrictions on installing groundwater supply wells. In its current condition, contaminated property cannot safely be redeveloped without land use restrictions or cleanup of soil and groundwater contamination. Chemical contamination remaining in the soil and groundwater on-site under and around buildings poses a potential risk from vapor intrusion. Additional investigation and remediation together with appropriate design criteria could reduce or eliminate this concern. Uncontaminated areas of the facility and off-site properties in the direction of previous contaminant movement must also have restrictions placed on groundwater usage due to potential impacts affecting area aquifers.

Details

Site Description

The Hematite Former Fuel Cycle Facility is owned by the Westinghouse Electric Co. LLC and is located at 3300 State Road P in Jefferson County, near the unincorporated village of Hematite. From 1956 to 2001, the main activity at the facility was the production of uranium fuel for nuclear reactors. Initial operations focused on fuel for U.S. Department of Defense reactors and transitioned later to fuel for commercial reactors.  The facility consists of approximately 228 acres, with about eight fenced acres of the property used for fuel manufacturing. A variety of non-nuclear chemical products were also stored on-site and used in various steps of the fuel manufacturing processes. 

Nuclear activities at the site were initially regulated under the provisions of a license issued by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and later by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). In 2001, Westinghouse stopped fuel production at the facility and requested an amendment from the NRC to its nuclear materials license, changing the scope of licensed activities to those focused on decommissioning. The NRC issued the requested license amendment in 2002.

Samples obtained from on-site groundwater monitoring wells and several residential water-supply wells near the site identified volatile organic compound (VOC) contamination associated with site operations. A remedial investigation, completed in 2007, further defined the site as a source of groundwater VOC contamination. Polyaromatic hydrocarbons, arsenic and VOCs, including perchloroethylene (PCE), trichloroethylene (TCE) and their breakdown byproducts, were identified as principal chemical contaminants of concern in soils. The investigation identified impacts to several water bearing layers of soil and bedrock. Short-term response to the groundwater contamination included extending a public water supply main and connections to impacted residential areas. A plan was also implemented to provide periodic information on amounts and extent of groundwater contamination.

The distribution of PCE and TCE in the groundwater and soil appear to have originated from multiple sources associated with the facility. VOC source areas in silty clay layers impacted the underlying sand, gravel and bedrock layers and traveled off-site. One component of groundwater contamination in unconsolidated soil and shallow bedrock has traveled in a southeasterly direction beneath Joachim Creek. A second component traveled from the facility towards the northeast. Isolated contamination associated with a few private water supply wells was also found in an even deeper underlying layer of bedrock. The “open hole” manner in which these private wells were completed likely lead to the spread of contamination between the shallow and deeper bedrock layers.

In addition to chemical contamination, the 2007 remedial investigation identified uranium and technetium in site buildings and soils at levels that could pose unacceptable risk from long-term individual exposure. Radioactive contamination regulated by the NRC was cleaned up under the provisions of a decommissioning plan approved by that agency and implemented by Westinghouse. The NRC deemed the decommissioning plan to have been completed successfully and issued a license termination letter on Sept. 27, 2018.

The department is responsible for overseeing activities regarding contamination originating from the non-nuclear products. The selected remedy for contaminated soils at the Hematite site requires cleanup of buried waste, impacted soils and sediments as one operable unit (OU-1). Impacted groundwater will be addressed as a separate operable unit (OU-2). From 2012 to 2015, the selected remedy was conducted, which included removing radiologically and chemically impacted soils. In 2015, Westinghouse decided to delay cleanup of remaining VOC contaminated soils in order to speed up work needed to end the site NRC license. Remaining VOC soil contamination will be addressed while impacted groundwater is dealt with under OU-2.

The Problem

Although a large amount of chemical contamination was removed during radiological cleanup, contamination remains in the soil on-site. Some soil contamination areas are source areas for continuing groundwater contamination. Groundwater contamination remains across a large part of the site and in limited off-site areas where sample results indicate that contaminant levels and extent are decreasing. If the remaining soil contamination isn’t dealt with, normal fluctuations in groundwater elevation will continue to spread the remaining contamination between soil and groundwater, possibly extending the amount of time needed for natural reduction of contamination.

VOC contamination remaining in the soil and groundwater around and beneath buildings on-site could pose a health risk from vapor intrusion for long-term occupants of remaining site buildings. Any future buildings built over contaminated areas of the site could also pose risk to building occupants. Groundwater contamination has traveled off-site and would pose an unacceptable risk if water supply wells were installed in the contaminated layers of soil or bedrock.

Environmental Restoration

According to the Remedial Action Completion Report for Operable Unit l, dated February 23, 2017, approximately 115,120 cubic yards of radioactive and chemically contaminated soil and debris were removed and transported to out-of-state facilities via truck or rail between 2012 and 2016. Quarterly groundwater monitoring continues to ensure against unexpected further spread of contamination. Results indicate that groundwater contaminate levels are decreasing in the residential area and the extent appears to be receding in the direction of site source areas.

Natural Resources / Wildlife Management

Applicable or relevant and appropriate requirements (ARARs) identified in the record of decision included regulations that would preserve and protect aspects of the environment (floodplains and wetlands; fish and wildlife; and migratory birds). During cleanup actions, the ARARs were addressed through consultations with the U.S. Army Corps and Engineers, the U.S. Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service and the Missouri Department of Conservation. Compliance with the Missouri Clean Water Law was addressed through National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) monitoring.

Community Involvement

Community involvement has been encouraged through public meetings held during previous project milestones, from investigation through completion of the radiological remediation. It is anticipated that community involvement will continue to be a part of the path forward to address the remaining chemical contamination in the soil and groundwater.

What’s Left

A large amount of chemical contamination was removed during radiological cleanup. During a public meeting in June 2016, Westinghouse reported that an estimated 20,000 cubic yards of chemical soil contamination remains. Groundwater contamination remains across a significant portion of the site and in limited off-site areas where sample results indicate that contaminant levels and extent are decreasing. In order to prevent any risk of exposure from vapor intrusion and groundwater usage, residual chemical soil and groundwater contamination must be cleaned up or land use restrictions developed and put into effect.

Looking to the Future

Some parts of the 228-acre facility, particularly those that are not above contaminated soil or groundwater risk-based levels, could be used for any purpose, if there were suitable restrictions on the installation of groundwater supply wells. In its current condition, contaminated property cannot safely be redeveloped without land use restrictions and cleanup of soil and groundwater contamination. Chemical contamination remaining on-site under and around buildings, in the soil and groundwater, poses a potential risk from vapor intrusion. Additional investigation and cleanup, together with appropriate design criteria, could lessen or eliminate this concern. Uncontaminated areas of the facility, and off-site properties in the direction of previous contaminant movement, must also have restrictions placed on groundwater usage due to potential impacts affecting area aquifers.

Additional investigation and treatability studies are underway to help identify the most efficient approach to future cleanup. Other items to address include developing land use controls to protect any future occupants of the site, and some adjacent properties, from exposure risks associated with contaminated soil and groundwater remaining at the site.

Additional Information: 

Annual Interim Groundwater Monitoring Plan Reports for years 2010 to present can be requested by submitting an Open Records/ Sunshine Law Request.