June 26, 2000


Department of Energy, EPA and NY State Reach Agreement on Addressing Groundwater Contamination at Brookhaven Lab

GAIL PENNY (DOE) 631/344-3429
PETER A. GENZER (BNL) 631/344-3174  


Upton, NY - The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation have agreed on remedies to address groundwater contamination at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL). The agreement, reached after extensive regulator and public review and comment, allows DOE and BNL to move forward with design, construction and implementation of the proposed remedies.

The remedies are contained in a document titled the Operable Unit III Record of Decision. The document is available for review at the libraries listed below, and will be posted on BNL's web site at http://www.oer.dir.bnl.gov.

The Record of Decision (ROD) presents the selected remedial actions for Operable Unit III, which addresses areas of groundwater contamination, or plumes, originating from Brookhaven National Laboratory. It also documents the final remedy for several removal actions that have either been completed or are ongoing. These remedial actions have been jointly agreed to by DOE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with the concurrence of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

The ROD agreement follows several public participation activities held by DOE and BNL to obtain input on the Operable Unit III investigation and potential cleanup approaches. Four roundtable discussions and a community workshop on Operable Unit III issues were held at the Lab in the fall of 1998, and three information sessions and a public meeting were held in 1999. These events generated comments and concerns that have been made part of the public record. The ROD contains a Responsiveness Summary, which documents public comments on the proposed remedial actions and DOE responses to those comments.

Remedies Finalized

Remedies have been selected to address groundwater containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), tritium and strontium-90.

For VOCs, the selected remedy involves active remediation of both on-site and off-site contamination. It includes continued operation of four existing on-site and off-site treatment systems, as well as the installation of a new treatment system on the BNL property at Middle Road and additional treatment systems on the Long Island Power Authority right-of-way, in two areas on and east of North Street, on Brookhaven Airport property, and in the eastern portion of the industrial park just south of the Lab. The remedy also includes on-site treatment to address low levels of VOCs in the western part of the plume (added in response to public and regulator concerns), and removal of PCB-contaminated soils and treatment of VOC-contaminated groundwater near Building 96 in the center of the Lab site.

BNL is also conducting additional characterization of contamination in the deeper Magothy aquifer. After this characterization has been completed, DOE, EPA and DEC will evaluate the need for treatment of the Magothy. If treatment is deemed necessary, either the ROD will be modified or another decision document will establish the selected action. The public will be informed of any such additional actions.

For on-site tritium, the selected remedy includes the following components:

The tritium plume will be monitored to ensure that the combination of remedies and natural attenuation is achieving the cleanup objectives. These remedies are meant to ensure that tritium levels are below the drinking water standard (20,000 picocuries per liter), before reaching the Laboratory boundary.

For on-site strontium-90, the selected remedy involves a pilot study, followed by installation of extraction wells that use an ion-exchange process to remove strontium-90 from the extracted water. Residual waste that contains strontium-90 will be shipped to a licensed off-site facility for disposal. Details of the specific number of treatment systems and locations needed to meet the cleanup objectives will be determined during the design process.

Continued groundwater monitoring will ensure the effectiveness of these actions. Public water was provided to homes potentially in the path of contaminated groundwater originating from BNL.

The next step in the groundwater cleanup is the detailed planning and design of the remedies, including specific placement and numbers of wells to be installed and groundwater monitoring requirements. The groundwater cleanup will then proceed according to the design. All groundwater treatment systems are expected to be operational by 2006 or earlier.

Environmental remediation at BNL is carried out under requirements of the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, commonly known as the Superfund Law. BNL is on the Superfund list 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 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 BNL property and oversees and pays for all cleanup costs.

For more information, contact:  
Gail Penny, U.S. Department of Energy - Brookhaven Group, (631) 344-3429  
Ken White, Brookhaven National Laboratory, (631) 344-4423

Copies of the Operable Unit III Record of Decision are available for review at:  

Longwood Public Library
800 Middle Country Rd
Middle Island, NY
(631) 924-6400  

Mastics-Moriches-Shirley Public Library
301 William Floyd Parkway
Shirley, NY
(631) 399-1511  

BNL Research Library
Building 477A
Upton, NY
(631) 344-3483  

U.S. EPA, Region II Library
290 Broadway
New York, NY
(212) 637-4296


Last updated 6/28/00 by Public Affairs