ARRA wraps up

Posted: July 18, 2012 - 1:52pm | Y-12 Report | Volume 9, Issue 1 | 2012

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 aimed to create jobs, and at the Y‑12 National Security Complex that meant hiring workers to clean up waste from the Cold War. Over the span of three years, more than 2,100 jobs were created — about 200 with B&W Y‑12 and more than 1,900 with subcontractors.

For Danny Gibson, the call to work at Y‑12 couldn't have come at a better time. A self-employed carpenter, Gibson felt the backlash of America's recession: a distinct downturn in his business. He wondered how he was going to provide for his wife and two school-age sons.

“The economy was so bad that I was only doing a quarter of the work I had done in previous years,” Gibson said. “When I heard about the jobs at Y‑12, I knew I would do whatever it took to get my foot in the door. I am a worker. All I know is work.”

In 2009, B&W Y‑12 hired him for a temporary position. Gibson spent the next two years working in a hardhat, Tyvek suit and respirator, cleaning out Building 9201-5 (Alpha 5) and Building 9204-4 (Beta 4). He cut up wood desks, file cabinets, storage shelves and other contaminated items and loaded them into large boxes he lined with plywood to brace the material for transport and disposal. The work was hot and dangerous.

“We were properly trained and monitored closely,” he said. “I was never afraid for my safety.”

About 985 dump truck loads of waste were removed from the 613,000-square-foot Alpha 5 facility, and about 250 loads were cleaned out of the 82,000-square-foot second floor of the Beta 4 building. Both former production facilities date back to the 1940s.

Alpha 5 and Beta 4 were two of seven original Recovery Act cleanup projects at Y‑12. Another project was to demolish four buildings of what is known as the Biology Complex. At a little more than 83,000 square feet, the four-story Building 9211 of the Biology Complex was the tallest building ever demolished at Y‑12. Special large equipment was brought on-site in several pieces and assembled to complete the task.

Other Y‑12 Recovery Act projects included cleaning up the West End Mercury Area storm sewers that contained soil contaminated with mercury and clearing and remediating the seven-acre Old Scrap Yard. With the $15 million in savings realized from effective management of the original Recovery Act work scope, Y‑12 removed additional waste from Beta 4, remediated a small area of contaminated soil in the scrap yard and continued remediating mercury contamination on-site.

“The Recovery Act work at Y‑12 not only created jobs but also reduced the risk to the environment and paved the way for further modernization activities at the site,” said Eva Irwin, who co-led the Recovery Act work.

Most of the 200 B&W Y‑12 jobs resulted from a unique agreement with the Atomic Trades and Labor Council, which facilitated the hiring of temporary workers for the limited-duration projects. Y‑12 was able to meet demand for skilled craft workers, and the workers — though temporary — were trained, received security clearances and were able to apply for regular full-time jobs.

More than 90 percent of the B&W Y‑12 workers secured regular full-time jobs, saving the company the expense of hiring, training and clearing brand new employees, reducing their learning curve and, most importantly, keeping those new workers employed with work critical to Y‑12's missions.

Gibson was among those hired permanently. “This is a job of a lifetime,” he said. “I'm so thankful.”

The Success Story

02/17/09: ARRA signed into law

05/07/09: Y‑12 funds received and boots are on the ground

$245M: originally designated at Y‑12 for 7 projects

$26M: in additional funding to do more work

150,000: square feet demolished

2,100+: jobs created

7,000+: procurements worth $82.5 million

62%: of procurements to small businesses

>2M: safe work hours

$15M: saved from projects under budget

3,900+: dump trucks' worth of waste disposal