US Department of Energy Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 15, 1997
Media contacts: Jayne Brady, (202) 586-5820 (DOE Headquarters)
Rich Cahill, (212) 637-3666 (EPA Region II)
Brad Bugger, (516) 344-2252 (DOE at Brookhaven)

 

EPA Takes Look at Brookhaven Laboratory;
DOE Issues Action Plan

 

The Department of Energy continues to take action to improve environment, safety and health management at Brookhaven National Laboratory, issuing its Action Plan for the laboratory, and responding to preliminary findings of an Environmental Protection Agency review of BNL.

In a letter today to Energy Secretary Federico Pena, the EPA indicated it has found some violations of environmental law. "The violations EPA uncovered during our multi-program inspection of the facility are instances of poor operations maintenance and housekeeping," said Jeanne M. Fox, EPA's Region II Administrator. "Although none of these violations pose an immediate threat to workers, the environment or public health, we have urged the lab to take immediate steps to correct them."

Because DOE and BNL have been working closely with EPA during the audit, many of the findings have already been corrected, or plans are in place to resolve the issues. The EPA also reiterated what DOE found in its earlier environment, safety and health review -- that laboratory management systems need to be strengthened.

"We're taking steps to improve management at Brookhaven so that attention to environment, safety and health issues becomes an integral part of the way they do business," said Pena. "The EPA review reinforces the importance of these efforts."

EPA's Region II office in May announced they would begin a compliance audit, in conjunction with Secretary Pena's announcement that he was terminating Associated Universities Inc. as Brookhaven contractor. The audit looked at air emissions, water discharges, underground storage tanks, hazardous waste storage, handling and disposal, spill prevention, toxic substances management, radiation controls, emergency planning, underground injection wells, toxic release inventory, and community right-to-know requirements.

Violations noted by EPA included: improper storage of waste containing PCBs; improper storage of hazardous waste at the point of generation; and lack of sufficient training and record-keeping for those who generate hazardous waste; presence of a pipe that could be the source of unpermitted discharge; and the need for greater attention in meeting air compliance and reporting requirements for oil-burning boilers at the Central Steam Facility. The PCB-contaminated waste has since been properly disposed of, and the laboratory is addressing, or has addressed the other findings.

The results of EPA's compliance audit of BNL are due this fall. The second and third phases of EPA's investigation, which will be conducted by DOE and BNL under EPA guidance, will examine waste generation processes at the laboratory to find any additional evidence of noncompliance, as well as opportunities for waste minimization and pollution prevention. They also will look at environmental management systems within DOE and BNL.

"While we continue our investigation to get a complete picture of environmental compliance at BNL, EPA is starting a comprehensive management review at the facility with the Department of Energy and the lab," said Fox. "It will focus on day-to-day management systems and practices to pinpoint what is wrong and how to make it right."

"We have every confidence," Fox continued, "based on commitments from Secretary Pena right on down to the local leadership at BNL, that the lab has embraced a new way of doing business when it comes to environmental safety and public health."

DOE also issued today the final version of its Action Plan for Improved Management of Brookhaven National Laboratory. The final plan incorporates public comments received on the draft plan. The only substantive change required as the result of public comment was a commitment to do a survey of the environment, safety and health culture at the laboratory. The final plan includes a list of all comments received on the draft plan, and DOE's response to those comments. The plan will be posted on the World Wide Web at www.doe.bnl.gov.

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