April 22, 1998
UPTON, NY - In the past four years, the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory has cut its hazardous waste output by more than half and significantly reduced other types of waste, going beyond the goals set out by DOE.
The voluntary achievements were reported today as part of an Earth Day celebration at the Lab's new, environment-protecting Waste Management Facility.
"These real reductions in waste and emissions demonstrate that the Lab is committed to protecting the environment, cutting costs and constantly improving our performance," said BNL Director John Marburger. "And we're not going to rest on our laurels - we're increasing our pollution prevention efforts under the new management of Brookhaven Science Associates."
BNL is now working with DOE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reduce waste even further. A March 23 memorandum of agreement between DOE and EPA paved the way for a voluntary waste-cutting assessment of every scientific and industrial process at BNL.
BNL's wastes and emissions are regulated by DOE, EPA, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.
The 54 percent hazardous waste cut represents a reduction in the amount of waste generated by all of BNL's routine operations, from photo processing to the washing of precision-made parts to the making of sophisticated computer circuit boards. It does not reflect waste collected during environmental cleanup projects around the site.
DOE had set a goal of 50 percent reduction by 1999. BNL is now working toward its own 1998 goal of a 60 percent reduction.
Also in recent years, BNL has eliminated 99 percent of the chemical solvent 1,1,1-trichloroethane used on its site by substituting non-hazardous cleaning solutions for the solvent in metal parts-cleaning operations throughout the site.
Another notable accomplishment, made over the last four years, was a 67 percent drop in production of mixed waste, which contains both hazardous chemicals and radioactive elements. Mixed waste is especially expensive and difficult to dispose of. The DOE goal was 51 percent.
Low-level radioactive waste was cut by 10.6 percent in the same period, exceeding DOE's goal of a 5 percent reduction.
All of BNL's hazardous waste is collected from around the site, packaged according to federal guidelines and sent to approved storage or disposal sites.
Other 1997 pollution-prevention achievements at BNL include:
Under the DOE-EPA agreement for Phase II of EPA's multimedia inspection of the Laboratory, BNL is now conducting a detailed examination of all waste-producing activities. The effort is looking for any areas of noncompliance with EPA waste regulations, as well as opportunities for additional waste minimization and pollution prevention.
A 1997 EPA review of the Laboratory's waste-handling facility found complete compliance with regulations, and no immediate risk to public health or the environment from any waste-handling practice at BNL.
1997 Actions Pave Way for 1998 Reductions
Groundwork laid in 1997 will help BNL make more pollution prevention gains in 1998. Many are funded by grants from DOE's Return On Investment program, under which DOE facilities can compete for grant money needed to initiate pollution prevention efforts.
For example, a recently purchased scrap-metal compactor will help reduce the volume of low-level radioactive metal waste produced at the Alternating Gradient Synchrotron (AGS), an accelerator used by hundreds of physicists to study subatomic particles. Because disposal costs for such waste are based on volume, the compactor is expected to save BNL $170,000 and 1,600 cubic feet of waste per year.
Another initiative begun in 1997 at the AGS will cut 15,000 gallons of radioactive wastewater annually. The project will retrofit existing ion-exchange vessels to allow spent resins to be easily removed and replaced instead of being rinsed and reused, a process that generates large volumes of contaminated water.
Helping Other Long Islanders Prevent Pollution
In 1997, the Riverhead School District began its own white-paper recycling program based on suggestions made in 1996 by BNL and DOE. BNL staff, working with the school district's administration and facilities maintenance staff, went "Dumpster diving" to characterize the amounts and types of potentially recyclable materials that the schools were throwing away. A paper-recycling program was recommended, and the district followed through on the suggestion in 1997.
Also in 1997, BNL joined forces with the Suffolk County Water Authority (SCWA), New York Institute of Technology, SUNY Stony Brook, Polytechnic University, the Rhode Island Center for Pollution Prevention, and NYSDEC's Pollution Prevention Unit to form the Long Island Pollution Prevention Partnership (LIP2). Under a grant from EPA, SCWA managed the partnership's "Students and Industries for Pollution Prevention" project. Through the program, 25 college students learned pollution prevention techniques and conducted free pollution prevention assessments for local businesses and industry.
Brookhaven National Laboratory creates and operates major facilities available to university, industrial and government personnel for basic and applied research in the physical, biomedical and environmental sciences, and in selected energy technologies. The Laboratory is operated by Brookhaven Science Associates, a not-for-profit research management company, under contract with the U.S. Department of Energy.
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