#97-123
Contact: Kara Villamil, or Mona S. Rowe

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

DECEMBER 16, 1997

 

BNL REPORTS ON SECOND PHASE

OF SITEWIDE ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW

UPTON, NY - The U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory has released a report on the second phase of a comprehensive, site-wide environmental review begun in April, 1997. The review is part of BNL's ongoing initiative to identify potential environmental concerns and improve environmental management.

The report, compiled after in-depth examination of records and interviews with past and present employees, indicates that further groundwater monitoring and possible remedial action may be needed at 14 of the 560 current and former facilities surveyed.

In order to reduce any potential risk to the environment, BNL initiated corrective actions during the course of the review for nine of the 14 areas. These actions include installation of additional groundwater monitoring wells, and sampling and removal of tanks and their contents. BNL will begin to address the remaining findings before the end of the calendar year.

One finding indicates the potential for environmental contamination from past disposal practices at the site of the former medical research complex, which was in use by the U.S. Army during both World Wars and by the Laboratory until 1958. A preliminary review of existing groundwater monitoring data in the area, and past aerial and ground surveys for radioactive soil contamination, show no obvious indication of contamination. Additional groundwater monitoring has begun, and remediation will be performed if necessary.

Other findings relate to areas where vehicle maintenance was performed or oil was stored, a greenhouse where pesticides were used in biological research, a tank formerly used to store carbon tetrachloride for a solar neutrino experiment, several dry wells, and a septic tank.

BNL had general knowledge of all but four of these areas of potential contamination prior to the review and had taken action in the past to characterize and correct specific problems. The other areas are the former medical research complex, the former motor pool facility, a sump near a former gas station and underground tanks related to weather experiments.

The review was conducted by BNL and DOE staff, with participation and technical assistance from Suffolk County Department of Health Services and other DOE facilities.

The report on the first phase of the review, issued in September, encompassed those buildings thought to have the greatest potential to impact the environment. All other current and former buildings were included in the second phase.

BNL initiated the facilities review as a result of lessons learned from 1997 events at the Lab, in which operating and unused facilities were found to be affecting the environment.

A summary of significant findings from the second phase of the review is included below. In addition, there is a summary of how BNL has addressed the findings from the first phase of the review.

BNL has occupied its 5,300-acre site for the past 50 years, and the U.S. Army used the site before 1947. The review encompassed past activities as well as current operations that have the potential to degrade the environment with chemical or radiological contamination.

The review provided BNL with a better understanding of previously reported contaminants in groundwater on the Lab property, including organic chemicals and radionuclides. The Lab also gained additional detailed information on tanks and underground lines that had been identified in the past as having the potential to release chemical or radioactive materials to the environment.

This information will help BNL continue to characterize and address environmental issues.

Corrective actions requiring additional funding have been identified and are included in an environmental management plan for fiscal year 1998, which began October 1, 1997. Additionally, several of the facilities are under active evaluation by the Lab's ongoing environmental restoration program under Superfund.

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Facilities Review at Brookhaven National Laboratory:

Summary of Significant Phase II Results

 

In April 1997, the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) began a comprehensive, site-wide environmental review of its facilities. The top-to-bottom facilities review was conducted by Brookhaven Lab and the Department of Energy, with participation and technical assistance from Suffolk County Department of Health Services and other DOE facilities.

For the review, every one of the roughly 400 existing buildings and structures, 300 demolished buildings and 300 portable structures on the BNL site was designated as either a priority-one or priority-two facility. Priority-one facilities were those thought to have the greatest potential for environmental impacts and were generally those where significant quantities of radioactive materials were used or generated prior to the 1970s, when most environmental regulations and standards were developed and issued. All other buildings were categorized as priority two.

The most significant environmental concerns from the priority-two buildings are summarized below. These represent either an existing or past potential for releases to the soil or groundwater that could contaminate the groundwater above the state/federal drinking water standard.

BNL has taken action in nine of the 14 areas. Four of the remaining five will begin to be addressed by the end of December 1997; action will be initiated in the remaining area during the first quarter of 1998. Although listed here, 10 of the concerns had already been reported in prior documents.

A number of the environmental vulnerabilities identified by the review are already being addressed through the federal Superfund cleanup program, under an interagency agreement with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and DOE.

Underground Sumps, Tanks, Lines, Ducts

Former Medical Department Complex: Before the construction of BNL's current medical building in 1958, the Laboratory's medical researchers used buildings formerly occupied by the Camp Upton Hospital, used by the Army during both World Wars. The buildings from this complex were demolished or relocated in the period extending from the late 1950s through the early 1970s.

The complex housed labs and patient-treatment facilities. Chemicals, pharmaceuticals - including radiopharmaceuticals - and instruments containing mercury were commonly used. Disposal practices for such materials were not as strict as required now.

No contamination was detected in a review of existing groundwater monitoring data in the area and of aerial surveys for radioactive soil contamination. A plan for sampling and analysis of groundwater and soil in the area is being prepared, and the project should begin in mid-1998. Should remediation be necessary, it will be conducted under the Superfund program.

Former Chemistry Complex: An underground storage tank once used to hold carbon tetrachloride for a solar neutrino experiment was emptied in the 1950s. Further groundwater monitoring and sampling of any residual tank contents will be conducted by the end of January 1998. Plans are being made for the Laboratory's Plant Engineering Division to remove the tank in the current fiscal year.

Areas of oil usage and storage, and vehicle maintenance: A building that was used by the Army as motor-pool facility contains formerly used oil-water separators and lines for hydraulic lifts under a concrete floor; soil in this area will be monitored for contamination and appropriate remediation planned. The groundwater near the former public gas station's oil-disposal sump will be monitored and remediated if necessary. An eight-foot underground oil storage tank below the Materials Science building, which has already been sampled and shows no sign of radioactivity or petroleum contamination, will be removed. And, four underground storage tanks once used to produce smoke for weather experiments have been sampled, emptied and removed; groundwater in the area will be monitored beginning in late December.

Power Transmission Project complex: Until 1988, this complex was used to test high-power cables similar to those used by utilities. It is now used for technical shops and storage. A heat exchanger and associated pumps and plumbing have been drained of a few hundred gallons of oil; groundwater in the area will be sampled and soil remediated if necessary. Five 200-gallon cable oil tanks inside a building and associated underground piping once used to circulate the oil have been drained. In 1987, five gallons of process mineral oil were spilled in this building and released into a drainage hole in the floor. Groundwater testing will begin in late December, and the tanks and piping will be removed during the current fiscal year.

Tritiated Water in Beam Stop: During the review, a water tank that was used until 1992 to stop a beam of protons used in materials testing was found to contain 350 gallons of water containing tritium at levels above the drinking water standard. The water has since been removed. Groundwater monitoring indicates that no water leaked from the beam stop.

Cesspools and Dry Wells

Dry Wells: Because pesticides were once routinely used in the greenhouse of BNL's Biology Department, sediments in a dry well that received drainage from the greenhouse floor have been sampled for contamination. The sediments will be removed by March 1998. A dry well that collected runoff from the floor of a booth used in the spray application of paint has been sampled and will be remediated if necessary. Another dry well, once used to collect liquid from a vehicle wash station, will be sampled and backfilled.

Septic Tanks: A septic tank still in service near the cabinet and sign shop has been resampled and will be removed. Soil in the area will be remediated if necessary.

The facilities review was managed by a six-person committee made up of representatives from Brookhaven Lab, DOE and Suffolk County. Additional technical support staff were drawn from the Lab, DOE and the County, as well as from: Argonne National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Pantex, and Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.


Facilities Review at Brookhaven National Laboratory:

Follow-up to Significant Phase I Findings

 

The following actions have been taken to address the significant findings of the first phase of the site-wide environmental review at Brookhaven National Laboratory.