ATSDR Public Health Consultation on BNL Released

October 1997

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) was formed within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 1980 under the same legislation that created the federal Superfund Program. Congress created ATSDR to implement the health-related sections of the Superfund law and other laws that protect the public from hazardous waste and spills of hazardous substances.

The Department of Energy (DOE) and the community had asked ATSDR to conduct a Public Health Consultation at BNL that addressed on-and off-site groundwater contamination and air quality. The Consultation was to discuss the potential for public exposure to and health-related concerns from the contamination. The Health Consultation was a way for ATSDR to quickly respond to requests for information on toxic substances and to recommend actions to protect the public health. Air and groundwater quality were to be evaluated to determine if exposure pathways existed. Once complete, the consultation could lead to other actions including a Public Health Assessment, Public Health Advisory, or a Public Health Study.

The ATSDR released the Health Consultation Report concerning the BNL groundwater contamination on October 14, 1997. The ATSDR confirmed the existence of the seven on- and off-site chemical and radiological plumes previously documented by BNL's Environmental Restoration Division (ERD). They also recommended that the occurrence of Radium-226 in monitoring wells be investigated. The wells were resampled with a specific method for detecting Radium-226. Based on the new data, ATSDR concluded that it was below drinking water standards. They also concluded that area residents and Lab employees were not at risk from the BNL plumes. Based on the sampling results of private residential wells, the Agency determined that the contamination, which included volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and low-level radionuclides, was "not sufficient to produce adverse health effects."

ATSDR recommended that residents of Shirley, North Shirley/East Yaphank, and Manorville should accept the DOE's offer of free public water hookups, that testing of residential wells in those areas that do not connect to public water should continue, and new residents of the area should be advised not to use their wells until their water has been tested. A public comment period that that ran from October 16, 1997 through December 9, 1997, was held on the Report.