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ARRA-funded work creates opportunities for Tennessee-based small businesses

Waste characterization work at ORNL provides assurance to the public and opportunities for health physics professionals

The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management (DOE-EM) presented a short-notice opportunity to the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE)—which is managed by ORAU on behalf of DOE—to provide waste characterization of 34 facilities slated for demolition at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

How ORISE is Making a Difference

In response, ORAU immediately augmented its current ORISE staff of health physicists, health physics technicians and environmental compliance specialists by securing professional and technical services from locally-positioned small businesses. Throughout the course of the project, which is funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, professionals from three small business subcontractors—Waste Management Innovations, Inc., Commodore Advanced Sciences and Alliant Corporation—have been key contributors to the ORISE waste characterization project team’s efforts.

Recently, a couple of these professionals shared in their own words their enthusiasm for ARRA-funded work and how it has benefited them.

Rachel Murphy

Rachel Murphy

Environmental Regulatory Specialist
Waste Management Innovations, Inc.
Cleveland, Tenn.

Role in the project

A former ORNL employee, Rachel spends time in each of the buildings scheduled for demolition and looks for components that are contaminated or possibly leaking hazardous materials. She combines that information along with any historical data related to the types of activities performed in the buildings and creates an inventory of those components. The information is essential for the planning process, especially with regard to the transportation of materials.

How ARRA-work helped Rachel

“When I left ORNL, I was doing roughly the same thing. There wasn’t much work of this type available. I interviewed with six or seven firms and even thought about going into another field because I knew work was so limited. Eventually, I was able to join a small consulting firm, but on an intermittent basis and only averaging 10 hours a week. As soon as the [ARRA] funding came in, I was able to pick up where I left off.”

ORISE’s view of Rachel’s support

“Rachel has been invaluable and so well integrated that it would be extremely difficult to replace her. She’s worked with previous ORNL waste management activities, knows the people and how things work—it’s like having an insider.” —David King, ORISE project team leader

Project results

Environmental regulatory efforts for the ORNL project have created countless data sets, tables and historical documents that are instrumental for planning an effective and safe approach for technicians to gather representative samples. The team has also identified uncharacteristic waste sources and ensured compliance with special handling requirements.

Kevin Hunt

Kevin Hunt

Sample Technician
Commodore Advanced Sciences
Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Role in the project

Previously involved in environmental management for other Oak Ridge sites, Kevin’s past experience focused mainly on soil and water samples. In his current role with the ORNL project, Kevin uses a variety of tools to collect samples from contaminated buildings and in the process, has expanded his knowledge of the tools and techniques used when sampling structural components.

How ARRA-work helped Kevin

“With this ORNL project, we’re working to take a building completely down—all the way to the slab. This is different from the smaller scale projects I have worked on in the past. And I’ve also tackled new challenges by working with multiple grades of concrete and learning new tools and sampling methods.” Kevin later noted that, on a personal note, his current job has given him the confidence to purchase a new home and motorcycle.

ORISE’s view of Kevin’s support

“Kevin’s past work experiences at structural steel plants, in factories, on construction sites and as a sampler has enabled him to serve as a key adviser to the field planning team. He and other technicians from Commodore have been instrumental in collecting difficult samples.” —Tim Vitkus, ORISE Survey Projects group manager

Project results

The field crew has collected more than 400 samples during the past six months despite deteriorating facilities, and the wide-range of sampling methods and protocols associated with various media and regulatory requirements.