February 27, 2002
Department of Energy, EPA, and N.Y. State Reach Agreement On Cleanup of Brookhaven Lab’s Sewage Treatment Plant
Peconic River Sediment Cleanup Decision Expected Later This Year
Upton, NY – The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) and the N.Y. State Department of Environmental
Conservation (DEC) have agreed on cleanup plans for soil and groundwater
contamination at Brookhaven National Laboratory’s sewage treatment plant.
The agreement, reached after extensive regulator and public review and
comment, allows the Energy Department and Brookhaven to implement the
selected remedies. It also marks an important milestone in DOE's plan to
complete cleanup of the Laboratory site.
The remedies are detailed in a document called the “Operable Unit V Sewage Treatment Plant Record of Decision.” The document is available at the libraries listed below, and will also be posted on the Brookhaven web site at http://www.bnl.gov/erd.
The Record of Decision (ROD) presents the selected remedial actions for portions of Operable Unit V, which includes the Laboratory’s sewage treatment plant and associated components: sand filter beds and berms; sludge drying beds; sewer lines; and an off-site plume, or area of groundwater contamination, containing low levels of tritium and the chemical solvent trichloroethene. It also documents the final remedy for several accelerated cleanups, known as “removal actions,” that have either been completed or are ongoing.
Operable Unit V also includes contaminated sediments found in the portion of the Peconic River headwaters on the Laboratory site and extending just beyond its eastern boundary. These sediments, which are targeted for cleanup due to contaminants including silver, mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls, and DDD (a breakdown product of the pesticide DDT), will be addressed in a separate cleanup plan. That document will be drafted following a series of pilot studies of innovative cleanup technologies scheduled to begin this month.
The ROD agreement follows extensive public participation activities held by the Department of Energy and Brookhaven since 1994 to obtain input on the Operable Unit V investigation and potential cleanup approaches. These activities included dozens of briefings to area civic groups, public and private organizations, and the Laboratory’s Community Advisory Council and Brookhaven Executive Roundtable; 12 roundtable and informational sessions with interested community residents; public comment periods on related cleanup documents; and informational mailings to and canvassing of homes in the Operable Unit V area. These events generated comments and concerns that have been made part of the public record. The ROD contains a Responsiveness Summary, which documents public comments on the proposed remedial actions, DOE responses to those comments, and changes made as a result of them.
Details of Selected Remedy
The major components of the selected remedy are summarized below:
Sand Filter Beds and Berms and Sludge Drying Beds
The selected remedy for the cleanup of the sand filter beds, berms, and sludge drying beds, which are the primary focus of this ROD, involves excavation and off-site disposal of radiologically and chemically contaminated sand and soil found in these areas at levels above cleanup goals set by Brookhaven’s regulatory agencies. Follow-up sampling will be conducted to ensure these cleanup goals are met.
No longer in use, these sewer lines contain sludge contaminated with chemicals and radionuclides including nickel, thallium, cesium-137, and americium-241. The sewer lines were previously capped at both ends, eliminating any pathway for potential exposure for Brookhaven workers or the public. As part of the selected remedy, any remaining sludge will be removed through 10 manholes along the sewer line, and institutional controls will be put in place to ensure any future construction in the area will not disturb these sewer lines.
Eastern Off-site Tritium Plume/Groundwater Monitoring
Groundwater containing low levels of tritium and the solvent trichloroethene (TCE) will be monitored and allowed to naturally degrade and decay. The highest levels of tritium seen in off-site sampling during 2000 were approximately one-tenth of the drinking water standard. TCE was seen at levels ranging from two to four times the drinking water standard in on- and off-site samples taken in 2000. Off-site homes and businesses in the OU V area were offered connection to the public water system in 1997 to prevent the potential for future exposure to TCE.
The ROD also adopts as a “final action” the 1995 cleanup of this tank, used to process solid sewage waste. Contaminated sludge in the tank was removed, treated and disposed of off site, and the remaining concrete structure was demolished, backfilled with clean soil, and capped with concrete.
The next step in the cleanup project involves the detailed planning and design of the remedy. Once this design phase is complete, the cleanup will proceed under the guidance of DOE, EPA, and DEC.
Environmental remediation at Brookhaven Lab is carried out under requirements of the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, commonly known as the Superfund Law. The Laboratory is on the EPA’s National Priorities List due to past operations that 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 at the site.
For more information, contact:
John Carter, U.S. Department of Energy - Brookhaven Area Office, (631) 344-5195
Ken White, Brookhaven National Laboratory, (631) 344-4423
Copies of the Operable Unit V Sewage Treatment Plant Record of Decision are available for review at:
Longwood Public Library
Mastics-Moriches-Shirley Public Library
BNL Research Library
U.S. EPA, Region II Library