Los Alamos Completes PCB Remediation Effort

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.

The idea of using Pentek’s equipment became appealing after trying other methods. According to environmental engineer Mike Bailey, “In the past, we put cleanup in a demolition mode where we cut out and disposed of slabs of concrete. This created a large amount of waste.”

During the first phase of the cleanup effort, Pentek equipment was used at the facility to scabble only floors. But by the fourth phase of the cleanup, both floors and cinderblock walls were decontaminated using the equipment. “The Corner-Cutter works very well on the walls,” states Bailey.

The size of the contamination areas within the Los Alamos facilities varied. One of the largest decontamination areas was about a 400 square foot section of flooring , while smaller areas were less than 100 square feet. The SQUIRREL®-III and the Corner-Cutter® were used together with a VAC-PAC® to scabble to depths of 1/8th to 1/4th-inch, with some selected areas scabbled to a depth of one inch. The major decontamination project was completed in July of 1990, only five short months from the start of the project.

Although some cleanup effort remains, it is not as intensive. According to Larry Hupke, PCB Disposal Coordinator, “we are still replacing transformers and we are still scabbling in areas, but no major cleanup projects are in action.” The equipment is currently used for routine maintenance and small contamination spills.

Los Alamos is pleased with the equipment that they have purchased and report that it does the work that they desire. Bailey comments, “Pentek’s equipment works well. It did everything that it was supposed to do and works better than foaming or demolition methods. The system produced consistent results every time.”

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Reprinted from Pentek Ink, Vol 7

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