Description of Surface Projects
During initial environmental studies, the Brookhaven National
Laboratory (BNL) site was subdivided geographically into seven
Operable Units (OU). Shortly thereafter, two of them were combined
to form OU II/VII. The main Operable Units dealing with soil
contamination are OU I and OU II/VII. Operable Unit IV also
addresses some soil contamination.
Operable Unit I was originally defined
as a 950-acre area in the southeastern part of the BNL site. Later,
to facilitate the cleanup process, similar types of contamination
from different Operable Units were grouped together. Soils
contaminated with radioactive materials from areas originally
included in OU II/VII, IV and VI are being cleaned up under OU I
because they have similar contaminants.
Operable Unit II/VII is located in the
central, developed portion of the BNL site. It consists of four
"areas of concern" - the Waste Concentration Facility,
aerial radiation survey locations, the former Low Mass Criticality
Facility, and storage yards for the Alternating Gradient
Operable Unit IV is also located in the
central, developed portion of the BNL site. Its area of concern is
the Central Steam Facility. OU IV also addressed the Reclamation
Facility and Sump Outfall Area, which has since been transferred to
OU I (see below for more).
The principal soil contaminants in Operable Unit I are
radioactive elements, primarily cesium-137 and strontium-90.
Elevated levels of heavy metals are also found in some locations.
All soil contaminants are confined to BNL property, and access to
these areas is controlled as needed to protect employees and the
Radiologically contaminated soils
Former Hazardous Waste Management Facility (HWMF) - The
largest volume of contaminated soil was located at the HWMF. It was
used from 1947 to 1997 as a central receiving, processing and
storage facility for radioactive and hazardous waste generated at
BNL. The primary soil contaminants at the HWMF were cesium-137 and
strontium-90. Elevated levels of heavy metals (mercury and lead)
also present in isolated areas.
Cleanup at the HWMF began during the summer of 2003 with the
controlled demolition of several building structures. Workers
are taking down buildings piece-by-piece to minimize dust production
and other unnecessary exposure. After the buildings and (if
necessary) foundations are removed, approximately 15,000 cubic yards
of contaminated soil will be excavated from about 13 acres of
land. Soil excavation is scheduled for the spring of 2004.
Reclamation Facility and Sump Outfall Area - Radioactive
elements were found in soils at the reclamation facility and in a
sump outfall east of the facility. This facility was used from the
late 1950s through the late 1960s to clean radioactive contaminants
from clothing and equipment. It is no longer used for
decontamination, although it is still in use for routine laundry.
Water from decontamination of equipment was discharged at the sump
outfall area until late 1969. Soils at the sump outfall contain
elevated levels of cesium-137 and strontium-90, as well as minor
concentrations of other radioactive elements. The contaminated soil
will be excavated and shipped off site for disposal.
Upland Recharge/Meadow Marsh Area - This area was used in
sewage treatment experiments from 1973 to 1978. Sediments in two of
the manmade basins contain elevated levels of heavy metals such as
copper, zinc and aluminum. The Meadow Marsh ponds were cleaned up in
the summer of 2003 and now function as a habitat for the Tiger
Storm Recharge Basins - These two basins are used to
recharge runoff that enters BNL's storm sewer system. Their
sediments contain elevated levels of heavy metals such as copper and
lead, as well as organic chemicals.
Wooded Wetland - This area is located adjacent to the
current landfill and received runoff from that landfill. Sediments
here contain elevated levels of metals such as aluminum.
Metal concentrations in these wetlands are below those of human
health concern, according to federal guidelines. However, there is
an ecological risk to the New York State endangered tiger
salamander, which uses these areas for breeding.
Two Upland Recharge/Meadow Marsh basins will be excavated and
reconstructed as part of BNL's cleanup program. The storm recharge
basins will continue to operate and will be monitored. A Tiger
Salamander Habitat Management Plan will detail the routine
maintenance required at these basins. BNL will conduct annual
monitoring of surface water and sediments at the Wooded Wetland.
Both heavy metals and radioactive elements were found in an ash
pit, used from 1943 to 1963 to dispose of incinerator ash. Levels of
contaminants were typical of those found in incinerator ash.
Radioactive elements found here were common in incinerator ash and
were unrelated to research operations at BNL. This area was cleaned
up in the summer of 2003. The ash pit cleanup involved
removing some trees, backfilling soil to even out the grade, placing
12 inches of topsoil to cover the ash, and reseeding the area with
native grasses. For more information, see http://www.bnl.gov/erd/Surface/ashpit.html.
A removal action is an accelerated cleanup response to a known
contamination source. The following areas of concern in Operable
Unit I are being or have been addressed as removal actions:
Former and Interim Landfills - These closed landfills,
including a slit trench, were a source of groundwater contamination
from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and strontium-90. The
landfills, which cover nine acres of land, were used from 1947 to
1966 for the disposal of general waste, construction debris and
chemicals. These landfills have been capped.
Current Landfill - This closed eight-acre landfill was a
source of VOC and tritium groundwater contamination. It was used
from 1967 to 1990 for the disposal of the same materials as the
other two landfills. The current landfill is no longer in operation
for waste disposal and has been capped.
Chemical Holes - These 55 waste pits were a source of VOC
and strontium-90 groundwater contamination. They were used from the
late 1950s to 1981 for the disposal of biological waste, chemical
containers and glassware. These holes were excavated in 1997. Soil
and debris are currently being packaged and shipped off site for
Groundwater - VOCs from the current landfill and the HWMF
have migrated into the groundwater. Rainwater percolating through
contaminated soil can pick up the VOCs and transport them into the
groundwater. An air stripping system began operating in December
1996 to treat this groundwater. It has treated over 1 BILLION
gallons of groundwater, and has removed nearly 200 pounds of VOCs.
Waste Concentration Facility
Cesium-137 and strontium-90 contamination was found in soils
here. This facility has been used since 1949 for reducing the volume
of liquid radioactive waste prior to disposal. It is still an
operational facility. Three large storage tanks were in use here
from 1949 to 1987, and were removed in 1994. Additional tanks and
piping still remain. These tanks and piping, along with
radiologically contaminated soils, will be removed as part of BNL's
Lawns and Landscaping Soils
Low levels of cesium-137 were found in soils near several
buildings in the center of the BNL site. Soils from the HWMF were
used as landscaping and fill material at these locations. These
soils began being excavated in May
2000 for off-site disposal. The excavations were completed in
September 2000. The excavated areas were backfilled with clean soil
and will be reseeded in the spring of 2001.
Two other areas at BNL were examined for radiological
contamination. The Alternating Gradient Synchrotron (AGS) storage
yards hold steel and equipment that is being stored for
potential reuse at the AGS. The former Low Mass Criticality
Facility was used for research from the mid-1950s to the
mid-1960s, and for temporary drum storage from June 1983 to March
1984. No contamination at levels of human health concern was found
at these two locations. No cleanup of these areas is required.
Institutional controls and monitoring will continue.
Brookhaven Linac Isotope Producer (BLIP)
of tritium and sodium-22 were found in soil and groundwater near
BLIP. These contaminants are generated by "soil
activation" during normal BLIP operations. In order to prevent
these contaminants from migrating into area groundwater, a silicon
grout has been applied to an area of soil beneath the BLIP building.
This grout will "lock" contaminants in place, preventing
them from leaching into the groundwater. A cap is also in place to
prevent rainwater from percolating through the contaminated soil.
Central Steam Facility
This facility supplies heating and cooling to all major BNL
buildings and includes aboveground fuel tanks connected to a boiler
building (Building 610) by aboveground and underground pipes. In the
past, the Central Steam Facility included underground fuel storage
In November 1977, a spill of about 25,000 gallons of a waste
oil/solvent mixture occurred. The spill pooled on about 1.2 acres
and was contained with sand berms. At that time, portable pumps were
used to clean up as much as possible. They recovered an unknown
quantity of the oil and solvent.
A 5,000-gallon underground storage tank, associated piping and
visibly contaminated soil were removed from this area in October
1993. To address the volatile and semi-volatile contaminants
remaining in soils and groundwater, an air sparging/soil vapor
extraction system was installed. It became operational in November
1997. This system strips volatile and some semi-volatile
contaminants from soils and groundwater into their vapor phase. The
vapors are then extracted from the ground and filtered to remove the
contaminants. To date, this system has removed approximately 24
pounds of chemicals from the spill area. Monitoring showed that, as
of late 2000, levels of VOCs in area groundwater were below the
drinking water standard. As a result, the system was shut down in
January 2001. Groundwater monitoring will continue. The five-year
review of the Operable Unit IV treatment system is now