#97-74
Mailed 7/16/97

Brookhaven Lab Begins Operating Groundwater Cleanup System

To Treat Volatile Organic Chemicals


Upton, NY -- As part of its Superfund cleanup, the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) has started operating a groundwater treatment system near the southern boundary of the Laboratory's 5,300-acre site. Similar to another groundwater treatment system that began operating in December 1996, this new system will prevent additional off-site migration of groundwater contamination.

The new system is designed to capture and remove volatile organic chemicals detected in the groundwater along a 2,000-foot area at the Laboratory's southern boundary. Six pumping wells in the area extract contaminated groundwater, which is then piped to the central portion of the Laboratory site, where the water is treated to remove the contamination. The treated water is then recharged back into the ground.

No public or private wells have been impacted by this plume, but DOE has provided public water to residences south of the Laboratory to alleviate public concerns.

The contamination originates from unknown sources in the developed, central portion of the Lab site. The primary contaminants detected in the groundwater at the site boundary are 1,1,1 trichlorethane and tetrachloroethene. These chemicals are commonly used as cleaning and degreasing agents for various laboratory and industrial activities, and the contamination may have resulted from past disposal practices of these compounds. In recent years, the Lab has disposed of these chemicals off site as hazardous waste, in accordance with more stringent governmental regulations.

The Laboratory was placed on the federal Superfund list for environmental cleanup in 1989, and the new $2.4 million pump-and-treat project is part of a long-term effort to remediate contaminated areas of Brookhaven's site.

The system works by extracting contaminated water from the ground and pumping it into an air stripper tower, which uses a powerful air blower to separate the volatile organic chemicals from the water by volatilization. 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, the treated groundwater will be sampled and analyzed regularly. New permanent monitoring wells have been installed near the pumping wells to evaluate the performance of the system.

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 New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and DOE. DOE owns the BNL property and oversees and pays for all cleanup costs.

The new groundwater cleanup system will capture and clean up groundwater contaminated with volatile organic chemicals at the southern boundary of the Laboratory site. Additional cleanup alternatives are being investigated, and a report on their feasibility will be made available to the public by the early spring of 1998.

A more detailed description of this cleanup action is available in a document titled, "Action Memorandum for Operable Unit III Goundwater Removal Action"(BNL, April 1997), which can be obtained from the Mastics-Moriches-Shirley Community Library, Longwood Public Library, Brookhaven Lab's Research Library or the EPA Region II Library in Manhattan.

Brookhaven National Laboratory carries out basic and applied research in the physical, biomedical and environmental sciences and in selected energy technologies. Brookhaven is operated by Associated Universities, Inc., a nonprofit research management organization, under contract with the U.S. Department of Energy.

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