BNL Contact: Mona S. Rowe, (516)344-2345
DOE Contact: Jayne Brady, (202)586-5806
UPTON, NY - The U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) will begin interim remediation of tritium groundwater contamination on its site on May 12.
Regulators at the local, state and federal levels have all given their consent for BNL to start pumping groundwater from the leading edge of the tritium plume. The Laboratory fulfilled the regulators' request for additional groundwater testing in addition to future testing and monitoring.
The "pump and recharge" interim remediation plan was prepared by BNL and approved by the Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). The Suffolk County Department of Health Services had no objection to BNL proceeding with the interim operation.
The system will use pumps, underground pipes and a recharge basin to ensure that the tritium plume does not migrate further south. Duration of the "pump and recharge" operation is being evaluated. The contamination is completely within the BNL site and is not a public health threat.
DOE and BNL are also evaluating long-term remediation options to address the higher concentrations of tritium in the plume near its suspected source, the spent fuel pool at the High Flux Beam Reactor (HFBR).
Any such remediation will occur under the existing federal Superfund cleanup program at BNL, under the supervision of DOE, EPA and NYSDEC.
The interim remediation system will pump groundwater out of the ground using three extraction wells located 3,500 feet south of the HFBR, where tritium is detectable in groundwater at levels well below EPA's drinking water standard of 20,000 picocuries per liter. The extraction wells will each pump 40 gallons of water per minute, for a total rate of 120 gallons per minute. The water will be piped 3,000 feet northeast of the extraction wells, through pipes that contain carbon filters to remove chemical contamination that is present in the groundwater from past practices at BNL. The water, which will meet all standards for safe drinking water, will then enter a recharge basin, percolate into the ground and flow south at groundwater's natural flow rate of about a foot per day. It will take 19 years to travel to the BNL boundary, during which time the tritium will decay and dilute to concentrations barely above naturally occurring levels. Monitoring wells directly south of the recharge basin and of the tritium plume will be sampled routinely to make sure that the groundwater leaving the BNL site meets EPA drinking water standards.
Additional groundwater test results south of the HFBR are generally consistent with the Laboratory's understanding of the plume. BNL has agreed to further characterize and monitor the plume as the interim remediation proceeds.
All available data on the contamination show that the area of the tritium plume that is above EPA's drinking water standard is well within the BNL site.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Suffolk County Department of Health Services continue to state that the contamination poses no public health threat.