b'P ROVING THE P RINCIPLEnybrook. They said there couldnt be So Rocky Flats changed its ways, dis- tial health hazard. Then there was thewater in the barels.rI watched them fill continued outdoor storage, and repack- old problem of not being sure whatthe barrels with waste encased and aged nearly 2,000 barrels. It soon Rocky Flats had actually sent to thesealed in plastic bags and then seal theimproved the plastic liner inside the Burial Ground. Its industrial garbagebarrels. Then we looked at the drums barrel, improved the sealant, and substi- and fire debris may have included labo-[barrels] in the storage yard. We found tuted a better seal on the barrel itself. ratory solvents like carbon tetrachlorideclear liquid on top of the drums. Well, and trichloroethylene or other low-levelthey werent tending to details. The barThe-IDO also had to consider the radioactive items. These needed duerels were standing up in the rain. TheyAECs decision to retrieve Rocky Flats respect if they were to be disturbed.were using sponge gaskets to seal thewaste barrels that had been buried Mixed wastes were a complication;barrel lids, and these werent always between 1954 and 1970. Exhuming workers had to be defended from twosealed perfectly. In those cases, the what had not been intended for retrieval kinds of hazards: radioactive materialsseals acted like a syphon, sucking waterpresented a number of questions. and hazardous chemicals. Techniquesinto the barrel. Retrieving stacked-up barrels probably for handling one might be unsuited to39would be easy. But the practice of handling the other.dumping Rocky Flats barrels fromtruck beds into the pits, while it had Retrieval thus required practicalkept costs down and reduced radiation research. Could older barrels be safelyexposure to workers, also dented and retrieved and, if so, at what cost? Asdamaged the barrels. The soil most inti- usual, the only way to find out was tomate with these barrels may have begin the job, first by removing andadsorbed flecks of radioactivity. examining a few barrels of several dif-Exposing soil to the drying winds of ferent vintages, and then by proceedingthe desert could produce dust. If it con- with a practical plan. By 1978, overtained plutonium, the dust was a poten- 20,000 barrels had been removed fromINEEL74-2808 below the ground and stacked onasphalt pads. Not unexpectedly, the bar-rels that had been damaged during thedays of random dumping were not aseasily dealt with as the others. To pro-tect workers from wind and weatherduring retrieval operations, the workarea was sheltered within a temporaryair-supported building that lookedfrom the outside like a very large pil-low. Made of fabric, it was anchored tothe ground and kept inflated by a con-stant flow of air pumped into the build-Above. Air-supported building inflates after beingmoved to new work location. Left. Barrel retrievaltakes place in pits 11 and 12 inside air-supportedbuilding in 1977.INEEL77-12622 0 2'