DOE NEWS

NEWS MEDIA CONTACTS:
JOHN CARTER (DOE) 516/344-5195
MONA S. ROWE (BNL) 516/344-3174

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 5, 1999


Department of Energy, EPA and NY State Agree to Remove Contaminated Soils at Brookhaven Lab

Upton, NY - The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation have agreed that contaminated soils at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) will be removed and disposed of at an off-site permitted facility.

In total, approximately 39,000 cubic yards of soil will be excavated. This cleanup action will provide the greatest protection of human health and the environment by physically removing the contaminated soils from the site. "The removal of the radioactive soil is an important piece of the overall cleanup at the BNL site," EPA Deputy Regional Administrator William J. Muszynski said. "This action will eliminate a local environmental threat and sets the stage for the cleanup to move forward to other areas of the BNL property."

The interagency agreement is described in a document titled Record of Decision: Operable Unit I and Radiologically Contaminated Soils. This document presents the final selected remedy and the rationale for its selection. It also contains a Responsiveness Summary, which details public comments on the proposed remedial actions and DOE responses to those comments.

The selected remedy addresses contaminated soils and sediments found in several areas of the Brookhaven Lab site. The principal contaminants are radioactive elements, primarily cesium-137 and strontium-90. Elevated levels of heavy metals such as lead and mercury have been found in some locations. The Record of Decision also addresses one area of groundwater contaminated with volatile organic compounds from the laboratory's former waste-management facility.

Cleanup Highlights

The largest volume of soils will be excavated from the former waste-management facility, and wetlands in that area will be reconstructed.

In two on-site basins, sediments containing elevated levels of heavy metals will be excavated and disposed of off site, and the surrounding wetlands will be reconstructed. Other on-site basins with lower levels of metals will be addressed through institutional controls and monitoring. Because these basins are the habitat for the tiger salamander, a state-endangered species, Brookhaven Lab will also develop a plan to maintain the basins in order to protect the salamanders.

An on-site ash pit, which contains low levels of lead, will be capped to prevent exposing humans or wildlife to soil contaminants. Access controls, deed restrictions and monitoring will ensure the remedy's effectiveness. In addition, several "removal actions" that either have been completed or are ongoing are recognized as final remedies. These removal actions include capping of three former landfills, excavation and disposal of buried wastes at the "chemical holes," and the operation of a groundwater pump-and-treat system at the laboratory's southern boundary.

Before any contaminated soil is removed from the site, Brookhaven Lab will do a detailed plan describing exact locations to be addressed, identifying volumes of soils to remove, and defining excavation procedures. The soil cleanup will then proceed according to the plan.

The Record of Decision: Operable Unit I and Radiologically Contaminated Soils is now available at the Longwood and Mastics-Moriches-Shirley public libraries, as well as Brookhaven Lab's Research Library and the EPA's Region II library in Manhattan. For more information, the public is invited to call John Carter, the DOE-Brookhaven Group Community and Government Relations Manager, at (516) 344-5195, or Eloise Gmur, Brookhaven's Community Relations Supervisor, at (516) 344-6336. Information on Operable Unit I activities is posted on the World Wide Web at http://www.oer.dir.bnl.gov/

Environmental remediation at Brookhaven Lab is carried out under requirements of the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980. Past operations at the laboratory have resulted in soil and groundwater contamination. Remediation work is conducted under the framework of an interagency agreement among the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and N.Y. State Department of Environmental Conservation. The Department of Energy owns the Brookhaven property and oversees and pays for all cleanup costs.

- DOE -