EPA Press Release

For release: Monday, March 9, 1998
For more information, contact: Rich Cahill, 212-637-3666

 

EPA FINDS VIOLATIONS OF ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS AT BNL AS MULTI-MEDIA INVESTIGATION CONTINUES

 

(#980119) NEW YORK, N.Y. - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)has cited the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Associated Universities, Inc., the contractor formerly responsible for operating the facility, for violating rules aimed at protecting public health and the environment at the Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) in Upton, Long Island. The violations were revealed through an EPA multi-media inspection of BNL's current compliance with all applicable environmental regulations. The inspections began on May 5, 1997 and follow-up investigations are continuing. 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 Reacotr discovered in January 1997, and the oversight of the federal Superfund cleanups on portions of the property.

At this stage of the investigation, EPA has identified violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act, which include unauthorized and unpermitted fluid waste disposal into injection wells. EPA also found violations of the Clean Air Act. The Agency's investigation into non-compliance in both these areas is continuing and may result in proposed fines at a later time. EPA is also proposing approximately $80,000 in penalties for violations of proper hazardous waste handling and disposal regulations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). In addition, violations of the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) regulations for the improper storage and handling of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) were also found.

"The findings of our independent inspections up to this point and the well documented tritium contamination and Superfund problems at the site clearly underline the need for systematic changes in the way the facility is managed," EPA Regional Administrator Jeanne M. Fox stated. "Tighter controls are needed at BNL to track and capture all the many and variable sources of large- and small-volume hazardous waste. But, we are encouraged by the steps already taken in response to the commitment last May by DOE Secretary Federico Peña to make environmental protection and public safety a priority at the facility. Recent actions by DOE demonstrate this commitment to improve performance in vital areas of its operations at the lab."

As a result of the inspections, EPA found violations of Safe Drinking Water Act requirements for underground injection wells. EPA's proposed Order requires BNL to prepare environmental cleanup plans for each well where a threat to underground sources of drinking water is identified. EPA will review and approve all such plans. EPA cannot make a determination on the health or environmental impact of BNL's injection wells until the facility completes a compilation of an updated list of these wells and the nature of the wastes in each one.

Under the Clean Air Act, EPA found violations including the failure: to properly notify the regulatory agencies before asbestos renovation and demolition activities; to submit proper notification before the startup of new boilers; and to meet the particulate matter emission standard during the performance test of a new boiler. In addition, there were excessive periods of time when the opacity and nitrogen oxide emission monitoring units were inoperable; late and incomplete submittal of quarterly excess emission reports for opacity and oxides of nitrogen from the boilers; and lack of labels on gasoline pumps showing the proper operating procedure to help avoid spills.

In response to EPA's inspections, BNL has upgraded the emissions monitoring and data logging system at the boilers. The facility has also submitted the missing asbestos notifications, and started submitting timely and complete quarterly excess emission reports.

EPA's inspections also found violations of RCRA that included the failure to make a hazardous waste determination, resulting in the disposal of hazardous waste. A portion of silver-bearing hazardous waste was improperly sent to the facility's sewage treatment plant for disposal, another violation. Other RCRA violations for which fines are sought include: improper storage of hazardous waste; inadequate aisle space in a hazardous waste storage area; and failure to adhere to hazardous waste labeling requirements. In response, BNL has subsequently reevaluated the wastes in question and will ensure the proper classification and disposal of the hazardous wastes generated at the facility. For the other violations, BNL moved the wastes to the appropriate, authorized storage area and labeled it properly.

EPA also issued a Notice of Noncompliance for violations of TSCA requirements for handling PCBs. The Notice covered two possible violations for exceeding both the 30-day and one-year storage requirement for PCB equipment; and, two violations on the use of PCBs in higher-than-allowed concentrations in a personnel elevator and a hot cell door opening system. In response, BNL promptly moved the container that had been stored for over one year to a central storage area and arranged for its disposal. The two unauthorized uses of PCBs had been previously identified by BNL and reported to EPA and were promptly addressed by cleaning the systems as soon as the contamination was discovered.

In addition, DOE is continuing with the work it has already agreed to undertake, and in fact has already initiated a process evaluation and environmental management system of its operations at the facility.

The inspection effort was part of an independent, comprehensive assessment of the facility relating to all EPA regulatory requirements. It was conducted with the assistance of the Agency's National Enforcement Investigation Center based in Denver, Colorado.

####