BNL CONTACT: Mona S. Rowe, 516/344-2345
DOE CONTACT: Jayne Brady, 202/586-5820

Issued 3/14/97


Upton, NY -- A recent sample taken from a concrete underground collection tank near facilities at the U. S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) showed the presence of tritium and strontium. The tank is located near BNL's former Brookhaven Graphite Research Reactor (BGRR), which was shut down in 1968. There is no indication of any connection between the underground tank and the tritium plume found in the groundwater directly south of the High Flux Beam Reactor (HFBR), also located nearby.

As part of the ongoing site-wide Superfund investigation, BNL reviewed potential environmental releases in the vicinity of the BGRR in December 1996. During this review, standing water was observed in the basin of the tank, located in the center of the site near the BGRR and HFBR.

Samples of this water were submitted for routine analysis, and results were obtained on March 7, 1997. On the 12th of March, 750 gallons of standing water were removed from the underground tank and placed in above-ground tanks. The Suffolk County Department of Health Services, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency were notified on March 13.

A temporary monitoring well installed 20 feet south of the underground tank in December 1996 showed no elevated levels of tritium and strontium.

The Laboratory is now installing an additional seven temporary groundwater monitoring wells immediately downstream from the tank to determine if it has leaked.

Analysis of the 750 gallons of standing water in the tank indicated tritium at 340,000 picocuries per liter (17 times the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency's drinking water standard) and strontium at 2,270 picocuries/liter (the standard is 8 picocuries/liter).

The reinforced concrete tank is approximately 4 feet wide, 6 feet long, 10 feet deep and has a manhole cover. It collects water from drainage lines connected to the base of the HFBR stack and the BGRR fan house. The drain lines were designed to collect excess water at these locations resulting from condensation or rainwater. In addition, there has been leakage of rainwater into the tank through the manhole cover, which was not watertight.

In 1991, a sample of water indicated strontium at 1,338 picocuries/liter. BNL is conducting a review of this finding.

Tritium in the tank is most likely from condensation of water vapor from HFBR operations. Strontium is believed to have originated from past operation of the BGRR. Groundwater contamination from strontium in this general vicinity has been reported in previous Superfund cleanup documentation.

Investigations of the underground tank are under way. The Laboratory will continue to share information as it becomes available.