Upton, NY -- The U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory has completed construction of a groundwater cleanup system near the southeastern boundary of its 5,300-acre site. The system will pump and treat contaminated groundwater on the Laboratory's property and prevent further contaminants in the groundwater from traveling off site.
The sources of contamination are an inactive landfill that was capped in 1995, and the Laboratory's hazardous waste management facility, where both chemical and low-level radioactive wastes are prepared for shipment off site. Specifically, the groundwater at the Lab's southeastern boundary is contaminated with common chemical solvents, primarily chloroethane, and 1,1 dichloroethane (DCA), which are breakdown products of 1,1,1 trichloroethane, or TCA.
In January, the U.S. Department of Energy and Brookhaven Lab offered public water hookups to approximately 800 residences south of the Laboratory. Testing of residential wells south of the Laboratory by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, in cooperation with BNL, revealed that five wells were contaminated above New York State drinking water standards with TCA. Although contamination in these wells is probably not from Brookhaven Lab, public water supply is being provided as a precautionary measure.
The Laboratory was placed on the federal Superfund list for environmental cleanup in 1989, and this $900,000 pump-and-treat construction project is part of a long-term effort to remediate contaminated areas of Brookhaven's site. Three companies LaFramboise of Thompson, Connecticut; Miller Environmental Group of Calverton, Long Island; and Philip Ross of Wyandanch, Long Island constructed the pump-and-treat system, which was first tested on December 24. The system is undergoing an operational testing program this month.
The system works by extracting contaminated water from the ground and pumping it into a facility that uses powerful fans to separate volatile organic compounds from the water by volatization. The clean water is then returned to the ground, and the contaminants are released into the air at concentrations below state and federal emission standards. To ensure that the pump-and-treat system is working effectively, groundwater monitoring wells will be sampled and analyzed regularly.
Environmental remediation at BNL is carried out under requirements of the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, commonly known as the Superfund Law. BNL is on the Superfund list due to past operations that have resulted in soil and groundwater contamination. Remediation work is conducted under the framework of an interagency agreement among the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and New York State. The Department of Energy owns the BNL property and oversees and pays for all cleanup costs.
The pump-and-treat system is expected to operate
from seven to 12 years before design goals are met. By that time, the system
will have reduced the contamination to such low levels that no further active
remediation is practical. Any remaining groundwater contamination will be
remedied by the natural processes of degradation and dilution. Groundwater
monitoring will continue after the pump-and-treat system ceases operation
to ensure the long-term success of the cleanup process.