EPA Media Contact: Rich Cahill (516) 344-3427-

DOE Media Contact: Carol Morrison (516) 344-3427

 

UNIQUE EPA/DOE AGREEMENT SETS STAGE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT REFORMS AT BROOKHAVEN NATIONAL LABORATORY

 

FOR RELEASE: MONDAY, MARCH 23, 1998

 

Upton, New York--The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) today signed a unique agreement to promote pollution prevention and sustained compliance with environmental safety regulations at the Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) in Upton, Long Island.

Under the agreement, the first of its kind in the nation, DOE will support comprehensive evaluations of environmental processes and activities at the Laboratory. The Laboratory will also develop a program-by-program blueprint in pollution prevention, waste minimization and compliance through new and expanded initiatives. The agreement reaffirms Energy Secretary Federico Pena's commitment to action last May and serves as another installment on EPA's promise to help the facility eliminate lapses in compliance and oversee the effort.

EPA Regional Administrator Jeanne M. Fox and Martha Krebs, DOE Director of the Office of Energy Research, signed the voluntary Memorandum of Agreement today at the Laboratory. Dr. Krebs is responsible for the management of 5 of the department's multi-program laboratories, including Brookhaven.

"The agreement is the most recent action on Secretary Pena's May 1997 commitment to ensure that the protection of public health and the environment will never again take a back seat to science at the facility," Fox said. "This agreement makes DOE accountable for pinpointing what is wrong and having systems in place to prevent the mistakes of the past from occurring in the future. The process will also provide an open window for state and county regulators and the public to review progress at the facility," she explained.

"DOE and Brookhaven Science Associates, the Laboratory's new management and operating contractor, will work together to demonstrate to EPA and the community that we are serious about cleaning up past problems and making environment, safety and health a priority," said Secretary Pena.

Following the announcement of EPA's multi-media inspection last May, EPA conducted Phase 1, a comprehensive review of Laboratory environmental compliance. The Memorandum of Agreement announced today is a direct result of that commitment and describes what will be accomplished in Phases 2 and 3 of the multi-media inspection.

The voluntary activities covered in the Agreement are the following:

Facility-wide Process Evaluation (Phase 2): BNL will conduct an evaluation of all experimental and industrial-type operations to identify all the waste streams generated at the facility and determine the compliance status of each waste stream and ensure that all waste stream generators practice proper waste management and handling. BNL will also identify pollution prevention, waste minimization and control opportunities. The facility will utilize the appropriate techniques and track the benefits.

Environmental Management Systems Audit Agreement (Phase 3): DOE and BNL will develop a five-year annual audit program to evaluate the facility's progress in implementing an effective Environmental Management System designed to assure full compliance with regulatory requirements and provide for continuous improvement in environmental stewardship.

In addition, DOE will use an expanding pool of federal and non-federal experts for these audits. Initially, the experts will be from the facility; then, DOE will draw on expertise from access the country to maximize objectivity. BNL will also provide quarterly reports to EPA, state and county environmental agencies and community groups for review and comment as the audit progresses.

At the time EPA's multi-media inspection of BNL was announced, DOE Secretary Pena committed to undertake additional projects with EPA oversight that would improve environmental safety management at the facility. The Memorandum of Agreement announced today is a direct result of that commitment and is considered Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the multi-media inspection. It was developed by EPA and DOE with the assistance of EPA's National Environmental Investigation Center in Denver, Colorado. Phase 1 is the identification of areas of noncompliance.

Earlier this month, EPA cited DOE and Associated Universities, Inc., the contractor formerly responsible for operating the facility, for lapses in compliance with federal rules aimed at protecting public health and the environment at BNL. EPA found violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Air Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act. BNL has corrected, or is in the process of correcting, these problems.

EPA is also involved in a number of ongoing activities at the facility that address past contamination, including the investigation and remediation of the tritium plume from the High Flux Beam Reactor discovered in January 1997, and the oversight of the federal Superfund cleanups on portions of the property.