NOTE: BNL publishes an environmental report each year.
The data reported in this press release are from the 1995 report and are not
related to the recent tritium contamination on the BNL site.

Mailed 6/19/97


Upton, NY -- The U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory has published its 1995 Site Environmental Report. The report presents the results of the Lab's environmental monitoring program for 1995 and provides an assessment of BNL's impact on the environment.

According to the report, a hypothetical person who spent 24 hours a day throughout 1995 living at BNL's site boundary, drinking well water from the area and eating fish from the Peconic River would have received a total radiation dose of less than 1 millirem (a millirem is a unit of radiation) less than one percent of the annual dose of radiation that same individual would have received from natural sources already present in the environment.

The Lab's Site Environmental Reports are usually published a year after the actual report year, to allow time for BNL staff to review data, write the report and have it reviewed by the Department of Energy. Publication of the 1995 Environmental Site Report was delayed to allow the Lab's environmental staff to focus fully on testing and monitoring efforts surrounding the recent tritium contamination at BNL, which the Lab announced in January.

BNL's Site Environmental Reports summarize data for measurements of chemicals and radionuclides in the air, surface water, groundwater, soil, fish and vegetation around the Lab's 5,300-acre campus. Recognizing public concerns about radiation in general and the effect of any emissions on Long Island's environmental resources, BNL distributes the report to an array of regulatory organizations and also makes the report available to the public. For a free copy, call BNL's Public Affairs Office at (516)344-2345.

Environmental Monitoring

Environmental monitoring serves as a check on the Lab's operations. To begin with, BNL must comply with applicable environmental standards or state and federal permits. Also, given BNL's commitment to further reduce its emissions, the Lab needs a continuous assessment of its impact on the environment.

1995 Report Summary

Airborne Releases Most of the airborne radioactive effluents at BNL originate from the Lab's two research nuclear reactors and from a facility where radioisotopes are made for medical research. In 1995, the principal radionuclides released were argon-41, oxygen-15 and tritium. The dose resulting from airborne effluents was 0.06 millirem, a small fraction of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standard of 10 millirems.

Liquid Discharges

Liquid discharges from Lab operations are released to the environment either as surface-water releases to the Peconic River through the sewage treatment plant or as direct releases from certain facilities to one of seven recharge basins on the property. Discharges to the sewage treatment plant are monitored daily, while discharges to the recharge basins are monitored monthly. All discharges are regulated either by New York State or by DOE.

Radioactive discharges from the sewage treatment plant to the Peconic River met all limits. The principle radionuclide released to the river was tritium, and the annual average concentration was 15 percent of the New York State Drinking Water Standard.

Liquid effluent discharged to the seven on-site recharge basins contained only trace quantities of radioactivity, which were all small fractions of the applicable standards.


Groundwater is monitored for radiological and non-radiological parameters on site and off site.

Three locations on the BNL site show radiological levels above the state drinking water standard, and all are being remediated under Superfund regulations.

Nonradiological sampling showed metals and volatile organic compounds exceeding state standards in a number of locations on site, which were generally traceable to known spills or to storage and former disposal areas. Again, these locations are being addressed under Superfund.
As part of a cooperative program that began in 1985 with Suffolk County Department of Health Services, 25 off-site private potable wells located east of BNL were sampled for radionuclides in 1995. Detectable quantities of tritium were found in six of the private wells, with the highest annual average concentration at 12 percent of the state drinking water standard.

Fish, Soil and Vegetation

In collaboration with the Fisheries Division of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, BNL has an ongoing program to collect fish from the Peconic River and surrounding fresh water bodies. The fish are analyzed for radioactivity to determine impact of liquid discharges to the Peconic River. Based on the 1995 sampling and analysis for the radionuclide cesium-137, a person who ate a year's total of 15 pounds of fish from the Peconic would receive an estimated dose of 0.2 millirem. This dose would be in addition to the internal dose of about 40 millirems that an individual receives annually from naturally occurring radionuclides in foods.

Soil and vegetation in local farms around the Lab site were sampled in June 1995 as part of a cooperative program between BNL and the Suffolk County Department of Health Services. No radionuclides attributable to BNL operations were detected in any of the samples, although radionuclides from natural sources and from weapons test fallout were found.


In summary, for the year 1995, the projected maximum possible impact from BNL's operations was a radiation dose of less than 1 millirem. This dose was calculated for a hypothetical person living 24 hours a day at the site boundary, drinking well water from the area and eating fish from the Peconic River.

To put the BNL dose in perspective, an individual on Long Island receives an annual dose of about 300 millirems from natural background radiation. Radioactive materials are found in cosmic rays (a dose of 24 millirems), the earth (36 millirems), in food and water (40 millirems) and radon (up to 200 millirems). In addition, the dose limit for the public set by federal regulations for human sources, excluding medical procedures, is 100 millirems per year.

During 1995, BNL collected all the on-site samples, and the county sampled the off-site private wells. Most of the samples were analyzed by the Lab, with the balance done by independent state-licensed laboratories.

The Brookhaven Site

Brookhaven National Laboratory is owned by the U.S. Department of Energy and operated by Associated Universities, Inc. Approximately 3,200 scientists, engineers, technicians and support staff are employed at the site to conduct basic and applied research in the physical, biomedical and environmental sciences and in selected energy technologies.

The Lab is located close to the geographic center of Suffolk County and encompasses about 5,300 acres. Only 1,700 acres of this property have been developed to accommodate the 360 buildings and facilities that sit on the central campus; the rest of the site is composed of undisturbed woodlands.

BNL uses about 4 million gallons of groundwater each day to meet potable water plus heating and cooling requirements. The Lab has a water treatment plant and a sewage treatment plant.
Like most eastern seaboard areas, the Lab is a well-ventilated site. The prevailing ground-level winds are from the southwest during the summer, from the northwest during the winter, and about equally from these two directions during the spring and fall. The Lab receives about 48 inches of rain each year; about half of this rainfall is absorbed into the ground to replenish groundwater, and the other half is lost to the atmosphere through evaporation and by transpiration from plants.

Groundwater flow in the vicinity of BNL is controlled by many factors. In general, however, groundwater in the northeast and northwest sections of the site flows towards the Peconic River. On the western portion of the site, groundwater tends to flow towards the south. Along the southern and southeastern sections of the site, the groundwater flow tends to be towards the south to southeast.

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