February 15, 2000

For more information, contact:
Scott Mallette (DOE) 631-344-5345
Mona S. Rowe (BNL) 631-344-5056

Department of Energy Invites Public Comment
on Peconic River Cleanup

NOTE: The public comment period has been extended to May 15, 2000

UPTON, NY - The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is inviting public comment on cleaning up a portion of DOE's Brookhaven National Laboratory site, including a section of the Peconic River. The public comment period is from February 15 to March 15, 2000.
Three documents are available for review:

Operable Unit V encompasses the northeastern section of the Brookhaven Lab property and includes the lab's sewage treatment plant and the Peconic River.

DOE recommends a two-part remedy: excavate soils and sediments contaminated above cleanup levels and continued groundwater monitoring.

Peconic River Sediments On and Off the Brookhaven Property
The lab's sewage treatment plant discharges to the Peconic River. The principal contaminants released in the past were metals, solvents and radionuclides.

Peconic River sediments were investigated both on the lab property and beyond the lab property as far off site as the Route 105 bridge, where the river meets Flanders Bay approximately 17 miles downstream from Brookhaven's eastern border. Those investigations took place in separate studies from 1994 to 1999, including a comprehensive analysis in 1999 for plutonium and related radionuclides. Results of the plutonium sampling were announced in October 1999, through a press briefing and a number of community outreach activities.

Elevated levels of heavy metals (such as mercury, copper and silver), organic chemicals (such as polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs), and low levels of pesticides (such as DDD, a product of DDT degradation) and radionuclides were detected in river sediment. Most of the contaminants were found in the top six inches. As expected, contaminants are more prevalent in areas where more sediments are deposited by the river and decrease with distance down the river.

Sewage Treatment Plant Soils
Brookhaven's sewage treatment plant was built by the Army, which occupied the site during World Wars I and II. The lab has used the sewage plant since 1947 and has upgraded it twice, in 1967 and in 1997.

The main areas of concern within the sewage treatment plant are the sand filter beds and the berms around the beds. Soils in the beds and berms contain elevated levels of mercury, silver, chromium and lead. Elevated levels of cesium-137 are found in a few isolated areas, primarily in the berms. In general, contamination in sewage plant soils is mostly concentrated in the top six inches.

Low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), primarily trichloroethene, were detected in the groundwater of Operable Unit V. These VOCs are found at the site boundary east of the lab's sewage treatment plant and beyond the lab's eastern boundary. In 1999, the highest level detected in on-site monitoring wells was 17 parts per billion (ppb), and the maximum level detected in off-site monitoring wells was 8.2 ppb. The federal and state drinking water standard for most VOCs is 5 ppb.

The elevated levels of VOCs in groundwater off Brookhaven Lab's property are found at depths below the reach of most residential wells. Homes and businesses associated with the OU V area were offered public water hookups in 1997.

Health Risks
Human health risk from chemical contaminants for the current on-site industrial worker and the hypothetical future resident living near the sewage treatment plant, using reasonable exposure conditions, are within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's guidance for acceptable risk range.
Similarly, the radiological risk is within the current EPA guidance for acceptable risk range. The radionuclides detected in sediments may contribute from zero to a six-millirem dose per year to an off-site resident. These are relative to EPA guidance for an allowable dose of up to15 millirems per year above background. The primary sources of radiological dose received are from cesium-137 in soils and sediments that result in current and future health risks well below federal limits. The average annual dose to people on Long Island from background sources such as cosmic rays and naturally occurring radionuclides in soils is about 300 millirems per year.

Proposed Remedy
In view of the above information, DOE recommends that Peconic River sediments containing copper, mercury and silver at concentrations above cleanup goals for ecological risk be excavated, dried and disposed of at an off-site licensed disposal facility. This action will provide the greatest protection of human health and the environment.

The levels of metals in the Peconic River sediments will define the areas requiring remediation. During remediation of the elevated metals, co-located PCBs, DDD and low-level radionuclides will be cleaned up. Wetlands that would be affected by the cleanup will be reconstructed.
DOE also proposes that sewage plant soils that are contaminated above cleanup goals be excavated and shipped to a licensed off-site disposal facility. Excavated areas would be backfilled with clean soil and regraded.

To be sure that the health of the residents located in the direction of groundwater flow from OU V is protected, homes and businesses in the OU V area were offered public water in 1997. Investigations of soil and groundwater at the sewage treatment plant indicate that there are no continuing sources of VOC contamination, and VOC concentrations in groundwater are decreasing. Monitoring wells have been placed along the predicted path of the groundwater and additional groundwater monitoring will continue. If future monitoring data suggest a need for further action, the OU V remedy will be modified

The public will have an opportunity to ask questions and learn more about OU V at the following events:

Roundtable Meetings

Public Meeting

To attend a roundtable meeting, please make a reservation by calling Kathy Gurski at 631 344-7459. No reservations are needed for the public meeting.

The Executive Summary of the Operable Unit V Feasibility Study Report and the entire Operable Unit V Proposed Plan are available on Brookhaven Lab's Web site at: www.oer.dir.bnl.gov/ou5doc.html. The three documents are available at the public libraries in Middle Island and Shirley, at the Brookhaven Lab library, and at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region II, library in New York City. For information, call Ken White, Brookhaven National Laboratory, at 631 344-4423, or John Carter, U.S. Department of Energy, at 631 344-5195.

Public comments can be mailed to George Malosh, Brookhaven Group Manager, U.S. Department of Energy - Brookhaven Group, Bldg. 464, P.O. Box 5000, Upton, NY 11973-5000. Public comments can also be e-mailed to: ou5@bnl.gov.

Environmental remediation at Brookhaven Lab is carried out under requirements of the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980. Past operations at the laboratory have resulted in soil and groundwater contamination. Remediation work is conducted under the framework of an interagency agreement among the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and N.Y. State Department of Environmental Conservation. The Department of Energy owns the Brookhaven property and oversees and pays for all cleanup costs.

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