(Initial distribution: January 1996)
Operable Unit I is the name given to an administrative unit at BNL charged with cleanup of areas of contamination in a 950-acre section in the southeast part of the Laboratory grounds. "EE/CA" stands for "Engineering Evaluation" and "Cost Analysis." This is a comprehensive study conducted to evaluate and propose alternatives for cleaning up any contamination that may be found. Because contamination in this area poses a threat to the groundwater, top priority was assigned to defining the extent of the influence on the groundwater and taking corrective measures.
Most of the studies in the Operable Unit I areas have now been completed and the contamination pinpointed. Some corrective actions have been taken in the past 10 years, but the most intensive cleanup efforts will be based on the recent studies. A faster-track project known as "Removal Action V," involving water pumping and treatment and public water hookups, will be entering its cleanup phase shortly.
Following is an overview of the Operable Unit I project. Details of the findings and the cleanup plans will be discussed at a public hearing on January 16, 1996, at which time public questions and comment are invited. The public comment period for this meeting begins on January 2, 1996, and ends on February 2, 1996.
BNL is a U.S. Department of Energy laboratory that was the site of numerous scientific experiments starting in the late 1940s. Long before environmental standards were established and refined, some of the by-products of these experiments leached into the ground and subsequently were recognized as potential hazards to Long Island's sole source aquifer.
Starting in 1985, efforts were undertaken to deal with the threats. In 1989, BNL was included in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's "National Priorities List" for investigation and cleanup. Three years later, the EPA, the Department of Energy and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation formally joined in the effort under what is known as the Interagency Agreement.
Investigators identified 28 areas at BNL with some contamination. These areas varied widely in the extent of contamination; most posed no immediate threat to public health. To focus efforts and assign priorities, the cleanup operation was divided into five administrative jurisdictions known as Operable Units.
Operable Unit I contains the three facilities known to generate the area's primary groundwater contamination: the Hazardous Waste Management Facility, the Current Landfill Area, and the Former Landfill Area.
The long-range plan embraces two simultaneous actions. The more vigorous approach will handle contamination at the Hazardous Waste Management Facility and the Current Landfill area. The second effort will deal with problems at the Former Landfill Area, which shows lower contaminant levels than those at the other two sites.
Hazardous Waste Management Facility: Chemical and radioactive wastes generated at the Laboratory are collected here and prepared for shipment off-site. Traces of volatile organic compounds have been found at and near the Facility as well as near the BNL boundary and off the BNL site to the south.
The Hazardous Waste Management Facility was the focus of the fast-track Removal Action, which defined a contaminated groundwater plume beneath the surface moving toward the southern boundary. Cleansing of the water through spray aeration was attempted at the Facility in 1985-1990, but the new cleanup effort will involve an intensive pump-and-treat process expected to last for seven years.
Current Landfill Area: This eight-acre site received an assortment of waste from 1967 to 1990, including low-level radioactive waste. A contaminated water plume has been found flowing south of this as well. To prevent further leaching of contaminants into the water table, the Current Landfill has been capped with a plastic liner. Future remedial action here will also involve a pump-and-treat process.
Former Landfill Area: Capping is planned for the 10-acre Former Landfill Area, which served as a U.S. Army landfill as far back as 1917 and later received some chemical and low-level radioactive wastes in the period 1953-1966. Studies completed here have found three plumes with some contamination, though to a lesser extent than those at the other two sites.
Thirty-eight smaller disposal areas surrounding the Former Landfill Area and known as "the glass holes" and "chemical/animal holes" are still being studied. When those studies are completed, the holes are expected to be excavated and treated before capping.
A major component of the Operable Unit I Groundwater project proposed action is the offer to hookup well owners south of the BNL site to public water. Current information suggests that the contamination is most likely traveling beneath the private wells south of BNL. However, this action is being proposed by DOE and BNL as a precautionary measure.
The detailed sampling and characterization of the groundwater and routine monitoring of all private supply wells required to insure that the public is not being adversely impacted is costly and will take time. Public water mains are already installed in much of this area and DOE and BNL believe that this proposal is the most cost effective, efficient and timely way to insure that the public is not exposed to contaminated groundwater.
At the same time, areas downgradient of Operable Unit III, which include the southwestern boundary of the BNL site, are also proposed to be offered public water because recent investigations have indicated groundwater contamination to have left the BNL site boundary in this area.
The total area proposed to be offered public water for both operable units I and III is bounded to the south by Flower Hill Drive and Flower Hill Drive East, to the north by Colin Drive and Carleton Drive East, to the west by River Road, and to the east by Sleepy Hollow Drive.
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