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Energy Department to drill east Idaho well to clean up waste

October 20, 2020 GMT

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) — A well will be drilled early next year at a federal nuclear site in eastern Idaho to remove hazardous waste from a Lake Erie-sized aquifer that supplies water to cities and farms in the region, officials said Tuesday.

The Energy Department’s Office of Environmental Management said the well will be drilled at the north end of the 890-square-mile (2,300-square-kilometer) Energy Department site that includes the Idaho National Laboratory.

Cleanup contractor Fluor Idaho will assist the U.S. Geological Survey in drilling the well to remove waste below the former Test Area North facility. The site sits above the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer.

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Officials said the new well is needed to reduce an industrial solvent called trichloroethylene and other organic hazardous compounds.

For nearly two decades, crews have been pumping and treating water in the area. Crews have also been injecting a solution into the aquifer to encourage naturally occurring microorganisms to consume the trichloroethylene.

Fluor Idaho Environmental Restoration Program Director Rich Abitz in a statement said the new well is needed to reach areas inaccessible using current wells.

Test Area North was established in the early 1950s to build and fly a nuclear-powered airplane, a plan later canceled by President John F. Kennedy.