DOE Press Release

Issued 2/19/99

For more information, please contact:
SCOTT MALLETTE (DOE) 516/344-5345,
or PETER GENZER (BNL) 516/344-3174

The executive summary of the report referenced in this release is available online at


Department of Energy Seeks Public Comment on Brookhaven Lab Contaminated Soils Report

Cleanup Options To Be Presented This Spring

The U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) is seeking public comment on an environmental report evaluating soils contaminated by radioactive materials on the Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) site. The report will be used to help determine subsequent cleanup activities to be conducted at BNL under the US. Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund program.

The Operable Units II/VII Remedial Investigation Report documents the nature and extent of contaminated soils located near the center of the Laboratory. An "Operable Unit" is an administrative name for a specific geographic area or a site-wide environmental system, such as contaminated soils or groundwater. The BNL site has been divided into six separate operable units.

DOE will accept written comments on the Operable Units II/VII Remedial Investigation Report during the public comment period, which runs from February 19 to March 20, 1999. The Department will also hold two public information sessions to solicit comments on the report. The information sessions are scheduled for February 25 and March 3, and will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Berkner Hall on the BNL site.

Additional opportunities for public involvement will take place during the next step of the process, when soil cleanup options are presented this spring.

Of the 23 areas studied in this report, 13 showed levels of radioactive cesium-137 contamination above preliminary cleanup goals developed for future use. The goals, based on safe levels for potential future residential and industrial use of the site, are 23 and 70 picocuries of cesium-137 per gram of soil respectively. A picocurie, or one trillionth of a curie, is a measurement of radioactivity. Access to these areas is controlled as needed to protect employees and the public.

Areas studied include soils at the waste concentration facility, where liquid radioactive waste is temporarily stored until it is treated and disposed of at an off-site facility. The primary contaminant found in soils at the facility was cesium-137, at concentrations up to 1,486 picocuries per gram (pCi/g). Strontium-90 was also found in one location at 454 pCi/g. The entire facility is fenced, so these soils do not pose a risk to Lab employees or the public.

Lawn and landscaping soils in eight areas near other BNL buildings contained cesium-137 at levels ranging from 24 to 66 pCi/g. Four locations contained cesium-137 at higher levels ranging from 81 pCi/g to 348 pCi/g, and could represent a slightly increased future risk to human health if not addressed.

Thorium-230 was detected in one location at 29 pCi/g. Seven areas contained lower levels of cesium-137 and may or may not require further action.

While the report focuses primarily on soils, routine groundwater sampling last spring near a facility that produces medical isotopes showed tritium groundwater contamination. Additional sampling immediately south of the facility detected tritium at a maximum of 53,000 picocuries per liter (pCi/l), about two-and-a-half times the drinking water standard of 20,000 pCi/l. Within about 100 feet of the facility, tritium concentrations drop below the drinking water standard. Tritium was also found in soils at concentrations up to 4,020 pCi/g. The cleanup of contamination near this facility will be evaluated in a separate engineering evaluation and cost analysis report, due out this spring.

Remediation of soil contamination detailed in this report will be evaluated along with contaminated soils in other areas of the BNL site under Operable Unit I. A feasibility study, describing and evaluating potential cleanup strategies for these soils, is expected to be released this spring. Final soil cleanup goals for all radionuclides will be determined in the feasibility study. The feasibility study will be accompanied by a proposed plan summarizing the investigation and detailing DOE's preferred cleanup option. Additional opportunities for public review and comment will take place at this time.

The Operable Units II/VII Remedial Investigation Report is available for review at public libraries in Shirley and Middle Island, the BNL Research Library, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region II library in Manhattan. The executive summary of the report is also available online at For more information, call John Carter, DOE's community and government relations manager, at (516) 344-5195 or Eloise Gmur, BNL's community relations supervisor, at (516) 344-6336.

Environmental remediation at BNL is being conducted under the requirements of the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, commonly known as the Superfund law. BNL is on the EPA's Superfund list primarily due to past operations that have resulted in soil and groundwater contamination. Remediation work is conducted under the framework of an interagency agreement among the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, EPA and DOE. DOE has jurisdiction over BNL and pays for all cleanup costs.


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