Pantex Plant’s groundwater management strategy has received two awards: a Pollution Prevention Award from the National Nuclear Security Administration and an Environmental Sustainability (EStar) Award from the Department of Energy. The groundwater management strategy is a part of B&W Pantex’s Environmental Management System (EMS). Sound EMS practices have allowed Pantex to be a focused steward of groundwater management.
During the last fiscal year alone, Pantex realized a reduction of more than 18 million gallons of water. The Pantex EMS not only reduced the amount of water pulled from the Ogallala aquifer but also the electricity required for water harvest and treatment. EMS is an important component of the site’s Integrated Safety Management System goal of protecting employees, the community and the environment.
The EMS administers sound stewardship practices that protect natural and cultural resources while cost-effectively meeting or exceeding compliance with environmental, public health and resource protection laws, regulations and DOE requirements. While safely and effectively assembling and dismantling the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile, Pantex also focused on water conservation methods and successfully implemented those methods. Pantex was able to see success by engaging employees in the process.
Annual questionnaires provided to several hundred employees help identify improvement opportunities. Pantex then looks for ways to not only aggressively manage water usage but to stop the need for water where possible. For example, Pantex employees found that two pumps required water to cool the pump’s bearings. Annually, these pumps used approximately 8 to 10 million gallons of potable water as a “once through” cooling stream.
After use, the water was discharged to the plant’s wastewater treatment plant. These pumps were replaced with oil cooled bearings. The result was a potable water savings with a secondary benefit of less water to manage in the wastewater treatment system.
Other successes include:
- Modification of the Pantex Wastewater Discharge Permit allowed the cessation of chlorination of treated wastewater and saved an estimated 5,000,000 gallons per year.
- Waterline repairs reduced the plant’s water consumption in FY2008 to 122,137,450 gallons – nearly a 5% decrease.
- Reconfiguration of a sampling cooler in a lab reduced potable water consumption by 9,000,000 gallons per year.