Groundwater Protection Group

The mission of the Laboratory’s Groundwater Protection Program is to protect and restore the aquifer system at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL). The four key elements that make up the program are:

  • Pollution prevention – preventing the potential pollution of groundwater at the source.
  • Monitoring - monitoring the effectiveness of pollution-prevention efforts, as well as progress in restoring the quality of degraded groundwater.
  • Restoration - restoring groundwater quality that BNL has impacted.
  • Communication - communicating the findings and the results of the program to regulators and other stakeholders.

The Laboratory has implemented aggressive pollution prevention measures to protect groundwater resources. An extensive groundwater monitoring well network is used to verify that prevention and restoration activities are effective. As of December 2010 there were 13 groundwater treatment systems in operation, one groundwater treatment system in stand-by mode, and two groundwater treatment systems that had been decommissioned. From the beginning of active groundwater remediation in December 1996 through December 2010, the Laboratory has removed 6,553 pounds of volatile organic compounds by treating over 17 billion gallons of groundwater. In addition to the volatile organic compounds, two additional groundwater treatment systems have removed approximately 23 millicuries of strontium-90, while remediating approximately 79 million gallons of groundwater. During March 2012, a fourteenth volatile organic compound treatment system began start-up testing.

Annually, a comprehensive report is issued detailing the results from groundwater samples collected to monitor the environmental remediation efforts, the effectiveness of the treatment systems, and environmental surveillance of current BNL experiments and operations. The report is Issued as Groundwater Status Report, Volume 2 of the Site Environmental Report.

Brookhaven Linac Isotope Producer (AOC 16K):  A low level tritium plume was generated from activated soil surrounding the BLIP target vessel. Source area corrective actions were implemented including a concrete cap and storm water runoff controls. A draft record of decision is currently under regulatory review. The final remedy will include continued maintenance and inspection of the cap along with groundwater monitoring and reporting to verify that the source controls are effective.

g-2 Tritium Source Area and Plume (AOC16T):  This includes a tritium plume that originated from an activated soil shielding area adjacent to the g-2 experiment. A draft record of decision is currently under regulatory review.  Several corrective actions have been implemented at the source area including a concrete cap and storm water controls. The Record of Decision (ROD) for Area of Concern 16T g-2 Tritium Source Area and Groundwater Plume, Area of Concern 16K Brookhaven Linac Isotope Producer, and Area of Concern 12 - Former Underground Storage Tanks was approved on May 10, 2007.

Operable Units - Operable Unit (OU) locations are designated as part of the CERCLA program to delineate significant known or potential source areas of contamination. For each operable unit, a feasibility study was conducted to analyze and evaluate cleanup alternatives. The next step was to identify a preferred remedy, which is outlined in a document called the proposed remedial action plan. The record of decision is the final step, describing the chosen remedy and documenting the decisions that led to the chosen remedial action. Once the record of decision is issued, the remedial design and construction take place and the final cleanup begins. The following operable units contain areas of known groundwater contamination:

Operable Unit I includes groundwater contamination in the southeastern area of the Laboratory that is being addressed by a removal action.

Operable Unit III was developed to address groundwater "plumes," or areas of contamination, emanating from the central and southern portion of the BNL site. An Explanation of Significant Differences to the OU III Record of Decision has been approved.  The main contaminants of concern are volatile organic compounds (VOCs), strontium-90, and tritium. VOCs have been found both on and off Laboratory property, while strontium-90 and tritium contaminants are confined to the Laboratory site.

Operable Unit IV included groundwater contamination at BNL's Central Steam Facility.  The five-year review of the Operable Unit IV treatment system is now available.

Operable Unit V, also known as the Peconic River Project, includes groundwater in the eastern-central area of the Laboratory.

Operable Unit VI includes groundwater in an area about 1,000 feet west of Weeks Avenue at depths of 90 - 130 feet below ground.  Groundwater in this area contains the chemical EDB (ethylene dibromide), once commonly used as a pesticide and gasoline additive.

Project Information

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Last Modified: November 7, 2013
Please forward all questions about this site to: John Burke