BNL's Community Advisory Council Formed

September 1998

BNL's Community Advisory Council Formed

Still meeting after 12 years, the CAC tours the new Light Source on October 14, 2010

Many community members have been following the cleanup process at BNL from the very start. Some of these individuals formed independent groups intended to provide the Laboratory and the Department of Energy (DOE) with a community perspective on the cleanup. In 1996, BNL formed a Community Working Group in response to community requests. This citizens' group consisted of civic leaders and others interested in learning more about the Laboratory's activities and operations.

During 1997, DOE and BNL explored convening a formal Department of Energy Site-Specific Advisory Board (SSAB). In February 1998, letters were sent to some 1,500 organizations and indviduals to determine interest in the formation of a committee of community members. After careful consideration, BNL decided to establish a community advisory council, which is similar to an SSAB but not as formal. BNL enlisted the assistance of DOE's Brookhaven Executive Roundtable, formed in 1997, with formulating a draft Charter and the member selection process. Many individuals from the original working group decided to join other interested stakeholders in forming the Community Advisory Council (CAC), which held its first meeting on September 10, 1998.

The CAC's membership originally consisted of 32 organizations and individuals. They were:

  • Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organizations
  • Brookhaven Retired Employees Association
  • Citizens Campaign for the Environment
  • East Yaphank Civic Association
  • Environmental Defense Fund
  • Environmental Economic Roundtable
  • Suffolk County Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services
  • Fish Unlimited
  • Friends of Brookhaven
  • LIU's Friends World Program
  • Group of the South Fork
  • Hauppauge Industrial Association
  • Huntington Breast Cancer Coalition
  • IBEW/Local 2230
  • Long Island Builders Institute
  • Long Island Pine Barrens Society
  • Long Island Progressive Coalition
  • Lake Panamoka Civic Association
  • Long Island Association
  • Longwood Alliance
  • Longwood Central School District
  • NAT Center Dowling
  • Neighbors Expecting Accountability and Remediation (NEAR)
  • NSLS Users
  • One-in-Nine
  • PACE Union
  • Ridge Civic Association
  • Standing for Truth About Radiation (STAR)
  • Suffolk County Third Legislative District
  • Town of Brookhaven
  • Town of Brookhaven Seniors
  • Town of Riverhead
  • Wading River Civic Association
  • Yaphank Taxpayers and Civic Association.
  • Individual members representing the education and health care fields.

Although its membership has changed over the years, to this day, the CAC has provided valuable feedback to Lab management on important topics. Some of the CAC's most notable contributions have been its input into the Records of Decision for many of the cleanup projects. CAC recommendations have resulted in changes to proposed cleanup plans for groundwater cleanup, Peconic River remediation, and the reactor decommissioning projects.

CAC members participated in a workshop held by BNL on Operable Unit III (groundwater) cleanup options in October 1998. The issue was an area of groundwater containing solvents that extended off the BNL site. Early input resulted in consideration given to the development of cleanup options that completed the cleanup faster and addressed the possible impact of the solvents on the Carmans River.

One of the very first issues tackled by the CAC was the Operable Unit V cleanup. OU V consists of BNL's Sewage Treatment Plant (STP), which discharges BNL's wastewater into the Peconic River. The CAC had its first presentation on OU V on December 10, 1998 when members discussed the benefits of separating cleanup of the river itself from cleanup of the STP. After a Proposed Plan for OU V was released in 2000, additional input from the community and the CAC convinced BNL to defer its decision on a cleanup remedy for the Peconic River until further evaluation and review of cleanup alternatives was completed. The cleanup for the STP moved forward, while a new plan was drafted for the Peconic River. The CAC had numerous opportunities to provide input into the formulation of the new plan. During 2003, presentations were given on draft cleanup alternatives and on an Action Memorandum separating on-site river sediment cleanup from off-site cleanup. Early input from the CAC and community resulted in changes to the new plan that included a change to the type of soil used as backfill during the remediation and a requirement to use native plants during restoration. The CAC continues to follow the Peconic River very closely; as of November 2010 it had 58 presentations on the river and issues related to it.

The CAC has also played a significant role in decisions related to the decommissioning of BNL's reactors. A presentation on the draft End State Vision for the Brookhaven Graphite Research Reactor (BGRR) at the December 2003 CAC meeting presented the opportunity for early input into the decision-making process. During the presentation, the CAC learned that the Preferred Alternative for cleanup called for allowing the reactor to remain in place for 87,000 years while residual radiation decayed. Input from the CAC and community resulted in the selection of a decommissioning option that included removal of the reactor and its bioshield. (As of November 2010, the reactor's graphite pile had been removed and shipped offsite for disposal. The remaining components are expected to be removed by the end of 2011.)

In 2006, when BNL proposed a plan for the cleanup of soil and groundwater contaminated with tritium from at the g-2 experiment, the CAC was instrumental in requesting contingency triggers to ensure the groundwater contamination did not move off the BNL site. The triggers call for additional characterization and may require installation of a groundwater treatment system if monitoring finds that the tritium does not attenuate as modeling predicts.

Continuing to serve as a barometer for the community after 12 years, the CAC currently includes representatives from 24 community, civic, employee, environmental, education, and health-related organizations. The group meets monthly and sets its own agenda. Meetings are open to the public and people who are interested in serving on the CAC are encouraged to attend.

Click here to learn more about the CAC.