On-site remediation operations are challenging in a fully active facility. Decontamination activities have to be efficiently completed within the narrow time window allotted by temporary and infrequent outages. Remediation specialists must not only decon facilities without disturbing existing operations, or background cleanliness levels, but they must get out quickly as well, without interrupting resumed plant functioning.
At Kwajalein Atoll, in the Republic of the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific, the US Army decided to undertake a major effort to remove PCB contamination from the island. As part of that effort, PCB contaminated equipment was removed from service and placed in a warehouse until proper disposal could be arranged. But after only several months of storage, PCB fluid from the equipment had leaked and was detected on the concrete floor of the facility.
Advanced Sciences, Inc., the environmental service coordinator for the cleanup, determined that solvent cleaning would present both safety and logistics problems for the island and would be of questionable effectiveness. The job had to be completed right the first time.
When the Canadian government decided to sell government agency owned and operated nuclear facilities to private enterprises, the need arose for a major decontamination operation. Although the need was not urgent, the decision assumed a high profile as the use of these facilities would be entering a new phase for nonnuclear purposes.
Disaster struck ten years ago, when a two year old, 18-story office building in the northeastern United States experienced a fire. PCBs escaped from a transformer in the mechanical room and spread throughout the entire building.
The environmental service coordinator for the cleanup responded and decontamination began. Most of the building was decontaminated using conventional techniques. However, the mechanical room, the most contaminated area of the building, had been left alone since the accident and reserved as the last area to be cleaned.
Back in the 80’s , about 10 gallons of PCB contaminated oil escaped from a transformer. While plant management didn’t consider this to be a major problem at the time, changing regulations and more stringent remediation regulations forced a Midwest manufacturer into a potentially disruptive, unplanned cleanup. Pentek’s rapid response allowed operations to continue at this facility during the cleanup activities.
Recent regulations and more effective enforcement activities have made the once-simple task of removing lead-based paints a dominant cost component in bridge maintenance activities. Faced with the competing demands of shrinking budgets and higher costs to comply with expanding environmental and occupational safety requirements, major transportation authorities have had to seriously reexamine the methods they use to maintain their facilities.
In what is going to be an ongoing project, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has decided to take on the challenge of removing lead-based paint from several bridges in the New York City area. Deciding what removal methods to use required careful evaluation of feasibility, time constraints, volume of hazardous waste generated, and cleanliness of the process in terms of worker exposure, compliance with environmental standards, and quality of the resultant surface preparation.
When Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico became aware that old transformers had been gradually leaking PCBs onto a concrete floor over a period of several years, facility management decided to take action. After an extensive study of available options, Los Alamos determined that physical removal of PCB contaminated surfaces using Pentek’s dustless scabbling equipment would be the most effective method to come into compliance with EPA regulations. Los Alamos then purchased a Pentek Model 9D VAC-PAC, two CORNER-CUTTERs and two SQUIRREL-III floor scabblers for use by their decontamination contractors, Johnson Controls.
Pentek’s MOOSE scabbling robot was leased, along with a trained operator, to remediate radiologically contaminated concrete floors at a Columbus-based nuclear research laboratory where DOE work had been conducted. The floors—14,600 square feet (1,300 M2) in total—were in two former metallurgical process buildings.
“The VAC-PAC system was dustless. The dust and debris created by the needle scalers and scabblers were captured by shrouds covering the tool surface…The entire system was very flexible and easy to operate.”
With the shift in mission due to the cessation of reprocessing activities, maintenance decontamination at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory’s Chemical Processing Plant (ICCP) gave way to full decommissioning. As a result, ICPP’s contractor, Lockheed Martin Idaho Technologies (LMIT), sought safer, more efficient removal methodologies that could decontaminate concrete to higher levels of cleanliness while also reducing secondary waste generation.
Over 50% of the DOE’s Environmental Restoration and Waste Management sites currently engaged in active cleanup utilize Pentek’s VAC-PAC high performance HEPA vacuum and waste collection systems. Recently, custom modifications of Pentek’s commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) vacuum technology have been delivered to support a variety of DOE EM-50 technology developments.
Flexibility of design, reliability of operation, and portability have earned the VAC-PAC an enviable reputation in the hazardous waste management industry. Standard VAC-PAC features provide for direct transfer of hazardous waste into an integral waste drum and an efficient, two-stage filtration system, which cleans itself on-line automatically with continuous reverse-flow pulses of high-pressure air.