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Oak Ridge Reservation

East Fork Poplar Creek

Historical Document

This Web site is provided by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) ONLY as an historical reference for the public health community. It is no longer being maintained and the data it contains may no longer be current and/or accurate.

Photo of East Fork Poplar Creek

Courtesy of: Oak Ridge National Lab - Team UT-Battelle. Photo of East Fork Poplar Creek

East Fork Poplar Creek originates from a spring beneath the Y-12 plant at the DOE Oak Ridge Reservation and is initially confined to a man-made channel which flows through the Y-12 plant along Bear Creek Valley. The creek flows north from the Y-12 plant off site through a gap in Pine Ridge and flows through the residential, commercial, recreational, and open-land sections of the city of Oak Ridge for about 12 miles. The creek converges with Poplar Creek near the K-25 facility, which flows to the Clinch River.

Starting in the early 1950s, East Fork Poplar Creek was contaminated by releases of mercury and other hazardous substances from the Y-12 plant which contaminated the water and in-stream sediments, and periodic flooding contaminated floodplain soils along the creek. Furthermore, residents used the sediment to enrich private gardens, and the city of Oak Ridge used creek sediment as fill material on sewer belt lines.

In 1983, state of Tennessee publicly disclosed that sediment and soil in the EFPC floodplain were contaminated with mercury. That same year, the Oak Ridge Task Force initiated remediation of public and private lands within the city of Oak Ridge.  In 1996 and 1997, DOE excavated and removed of mercury-contaminated floodplain soils with greater than 400 ppm of mercury from two locations in the East Fork Poplar Creek floodplain. Post remediation monitoring (mercury input, stream stability, and fish sampling) has been conducted to ensure the excavation’s effectiveness

Health Consultations

ATSDR conducted the following two health consultations to address the public health issues of concern to the community bordering East Fork Poplar Creek:

Science Panel Meeting on Bioavailability of Inorganic Mercury

To evaluate the mercury clean-up levels for East Fork Poplar Creek flood plain soil, ATSDR convened a science panel of internationally known experts on metal bioavailability and experts from ATSDR, CDC, EPA, and the National Institute for Environmental Health Science.

ATSDR used the findings of the science panel in evaluating the mercury clean-up levels for East Fork Poplar Creek.

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