(Original distribution: April 1, 1999)
Dear Community Member,
This booklet contains information about on-site soil contamination at Brookhaven National Laboratory. A significant step in determining the cleanup options selected for these soils will be based upon community input. This booklet summarizes information from two documents: the Operable Unit I Feasibility Study Report and Proposed Plan. Please review this information and take the time to provide feedback to us on the proposed cleanup actions for these soils.
You can send us your feedback in several ways. You may simply tear off the back page of this booklet and mail it, mail your comments separately to the address on page 7, send e-mail comments to OU1comments@bnl.gov, or come to the public meeting on April 22, 1999. Regardless of the method used, your comments will be recorded and considered in the decision-making process.
I hope you will take the time to read and consider the material in this booklet. Please make sure we receive your comments before April 30, 1999. Again, we value your opinion and will consider your suggestions in selecting the exact methods of cleanup. Thank you for your help in these important decisions.
John J. Meersman, Division Manager
Environmental Restoration Division
Brookhaven National Laboratory
Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) is conducting an environmental cleanup under the requirements of the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, commonly known as the Superfund law.
During initial environmental studies, the BNL site was subdivided geographically into seven Operable Units (OUs). Operable Unit I was defined as a 950-acre area in the southeastern part of the site.
To ensure effective management and facilitate the cleanup process, similar types of contamination from different Operable Units have been grouped together. Radiologically contaminated soils from areas originally included in OU II/VII, IV and VI are being cleaned up under OU I because they have similar contaminants.
Many investigations have taken place to determine the nature and extent of soil and sediment contamination in these OUs. Based on these investigations, a number of cleanup actions have already occurred. There are several areas that still require corrective actions.
The Feasibility Study for Operable Unit I describes the cleanup alternatives that were evaluated in detail for these areas. The proposed remedies are provided in the Proposed Plan for Operable Unit I. The Proposed Plan also gives the results of characterization studies and risk assessments that have been completed. In addition, it describes cleanup actions that have already taken place at selected areas, and that will be the final cleanup actions for those areas.
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 public.
Soils at a number of locations on the BNL site (see maps below) contain contaminants that will require cleanup.
Radiologically contaminated soils
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 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.
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.
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 are common in incinerator ash and are unrelated to research operations at BNL.
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:
Tritium and sodium-22 were found in groundwater and subsurface soils near the Brookhaven Linac Isotope Producer (BLIP). BLIP produces radioactive isotopes used in medicine for both research and clinical use. It has been in operation since 1972.
The most significant portion of Operable Unit I is the radiologically contaminated soils. The cleanup goals, established based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) criteria, have been developed to accomplish the following:
Cleanup of the HWMF to residential levels was considered, however the small reduction in risk did not justify the substantially higher cost.
The EPA criteria for releasing lands for industrial and residential use are based on a person receiving a maximum radiation dose of 15 millirems per year greater than that received from natural background radiation. To put this in perspective, natural sources of radiation in the U.S. contribute 300 millirems per year to the average individual.*
Industrial use assumes typical working activities. Residential use assumes a typical person living in a home and exposed to "worst-case" contamination conditions.
* Based on reports by the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements.
Both chemical and radiological risks are summarized in the Proposed Plan. Sources of chemical risk include VOC contamination of groundwater and heavy metal contamination of soils. A hypothetical on-site resident 50 years in the future would have health risks above accepted levels from exposure to these contaminants.
Sources of radiological risk include cesium-137 contamination in soils and strontium-90 contamination in groundwater. A hypothetical on-site resident 50 years in the future would have health risks above accepted levels from exposure to these contaminants.
Potential human health risks to humans who consume deer have also been evaluated. Deer graze on BNL lawns including those contaminated with cesium-137. Low levels of cesium-137 have been detected in deer sampled on and off site. These levels are not harmful to the deer.
The potential radiation dose to humans who consume deer was evaluated by the New York State Department of Health in a March 1999 report. A conservative estimate for a person consuming 64 pounds of deer meat results in a dose of five millirems per year. This estimate uses the average cesium-137 concentration in deer meat from data collected between 1992 and 1999. A worse-case estimate, using the highest observed cesium-137 concentration, is nine millirems per year.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will be providing information and fact sheets to hunters and permit holders but are not recommending hunting restrictions around BNL. Hunting on the BNL site is prohibited by the Laboratory.
Radiologically contaminated soils
Six cleanup alternatives for radiologically contaminated soils were considered. These alternatives include various combinations of the following: excavation of contaminated soils, on-site containment and capping, off-site disposal, soil washing, and vitrification (soil melting followed by solidification).
The recommended cleanup method for radiologically contaminated soils is large-scale excavation and disposal to an off-site permitted facility. Approximately 39,000 cubic yards of soil will be removed from BNL. Monitoring will ensure that this remedy is effective.
This alternative was chosen because it provides the greatest protection of human health and the environment by removing the radiologically contaminated soils from the BNL site. Removing soils containing cesium-137 also will eliminate the source of deer contamination.
Additionally, a Tiger Salamander Management Plan is being developed that will ensure future protection of salamander breeding grounds.
The proposed remedy for the ash pit is placement of a soil cap to prevent exposure of humans or wildlife to soil contaminants. Institutional controls and monitoring will ensure the effectiveness of the remedy.
Removal actions have already addressed several areas of concern on the BNL site. For these areas, the completed removal actions are proposed as the final cleanup actions.
Information sessions and a public meeting will be held to give the public an opportunity to ask questions and learn more about Operable Unit I (click here for more). Public comments will be accepted during the comment period from April 1 to April 30, 1999. Public comments will be incorporated into the Draft Record of Decision.
The Record of Decision will be reviewed and signed by the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the N.Y. State Department of Environmental Conservation. The document then will be entered into the public record. Cleanup actions will be designed and implemented, and the effectiveness of these actions will be monitored.
The Executive Summary of the OU I Feasibility Study Report, and the OU I Proposed Plan, are available electronically at http://www.oer.dir.bnl.gov/ou1doc.html. A copy of the Proposed Plan is available by calling (516) 344-7459. The Feasibility Study Report and the Proposed Plan are available for review at the libraries listed below. You are also invited to call Gail Penny, U.S. Department of Energy, at (516) 344-3429 or Eloise Gmur, Brookhaven National Laboratory, at (516) 344-6336.
Documents are available at:
Longwood Public Library
800 Middle Country Rd.
Middle Island, NY
Mastics-Moriches-Shirley Public Library
301 William Floyd Parkway
BNL Research Library
U.S. EPA, Region II Library
Radiologically contaminated soils in Operable Unit I:
Other contaminated soils in Operable Unit I: