October 7, 2002
Brookhaven Lab Releases 2001 Environmental Report
UPTON, NY – The U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory today issued its 2001 Site Environmental Report. Report highlights include the Lab’s registration to a globally recognized environmental management standard, continued expansion of pollution prevention initiatives, and reduced environmental effluents and emissions. The document can be found on the Internet at http://www.bnl.gov/bnlweb/2001_SER.html .
The Site Environmental Report is prepared annually to summarize the status of the Laboratory’s environmental programs and performance, including steady progress toward cleaning up the site and fully integrating environmental stewardship into all facets of the Laboratory’s mission. These cleanup and integration efforts are major commitments for Brookhaven, one of nine national laboratories owned and funded by the Department of Energy (DOE).
Brookhaven maintains a comprehensive environmental monitoring program to ensure protection of human health and the environment. This program monitors potential pathways of exposure, measures potential environmental impacts from Laboratory operations, and provides data to evaluate compliance with applicable regulatory and permit limits. Environmental program highlights from 2001 include the following:
• In July 2001 the Laboratory became registered to the globally recognized ISO 14001 environmental management system standard, becoming the first Long Island-based operation and the first DOE Office of Science facility to achieve this accreditation. ISO 14001 requires an organization to identify potential environmental impacts and establish controls needed to minimize impacts, to monitor and communicate environmental performance, and to establish a formal process for continually improving the system.
• Brookhaven continued implementing pollution prevention programs, recycling programs, and conservation initiatives. In 2001 alone, these efforts saved nearly $1.39 million and supported the recycling or reuse of more than 1.9 million pounds of industrial materials. Recognizing Brookhaven’s strong commitment to reducing waste and protecting the environment, DOE also awarded the Laboratory two prestigious national pollution prevention awards in 2001.
• In 2001, the dose to a hypothetical member of the public exposed to the maximum level of radiation due to Laboratory air emissions was 0.14 millirem (mrem), or less than 0.05 percent of the average annual natural background level of radiation (approximately 300 mrems on Long Island) and well below the 10-mrem limit set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Clean Air Act. This dose is calculated for a hypothetical individual residing at the Laboratory boundary 24 hours a day for the entire year. Brookhaven’s radiological air emissions are regulated by EPA.
• Monitoring showed that deer and fish on and near the site still contain low levels of Brookhaven-related radionuclides. The calculated maximum hypothetical radiation doses for a person eating locally caught deer and fish were estimated at 2.3 mrems and 0.1 mrem, respectively. The annual dose from deer meat is based on a generous consumption estimate of 64 pounds per person, and the dose due to fish is based on a consumption estimate of 15 pounds per person. Hunting is not allowed on the Brookhaven site, and a 1999 report from the N.Y. State Department of Health (NYSDOH) concluded that no restrictions on hunting or consumption of deer taken near the Laboratory were needed. NYSDOH has also evaluated data on Peconic River fish and concluded that the existing general fish advisory for all New York State ponds and rivers, including the Peconic, is sufficient. This general advisory is to protect residents from eating large amounts of fish that have not been tested or may contain unidentified contaminants, and recommends that no more than one meal (1/2 pound) per week of fish should be consumed from any freshwater location in the state.
• In 2001, the Laboratory’s sewage treatment plant, a discharge point regulated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), was compliant for liquid discharges 99 percent of the time. The exceptions involved metals, primarily zinc, detected several times at levels slightly above permit limits. The cause was traced to a project to replace outdated sewer lines; sludge that had trapped zinc over the years was dislodged when the old sewer lines were removed. In addition, new liners installed on several sewers had been manufactured using low levels of zinc, which added to the overall levels seen at the treatment plant. The total amount of tritium released through the sewage treatment plant was the lowest since routine monitoring began in 1966. During 2001, the average tritium concentration was 136 picocuries per liter, or less than 1 percent of the EPA drinking water standard of 20,000 picocuries per liter (a picocurie is a measurement of radioactivity equivalent to one-trillionth of a curie). For surface-water samples, all water-quality measurements were consistent with off-site control locations (areas not influenced by Brookhaven operations).
• Areas of the Laboratory site where past activities have caused groundwater, soil, and sediment contamination continued to undergo monitoring and cleanup in 2001. Program highlights included major progress in dismantling the Laboratory’s graphite reactor, and installation of a new, on-site groundwater cleanup system. In addition, the Lab’s six existing on- and off-site groundwater treatment systems cleaned more than 1 billion gallons of water and removed more than 600 pounds of chemical contaminants from the aquifer. Environmental restoration at the Laboratory is conducted under the oversight of NYSDEC, EPA, and the Department of Energy, in cooperation with the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.
• Groundwater on site near the now-closed High Flux Beam Reactor (HFBR) that contains tritium at levels above drinking water standards continued to improve due to remedial pumping, the natural breakdown of radioactive material, and other processes. The total area where tritium levels exceed drinking water standards has been cut to less than half of the 1997 extent, and the plume (area of contaminated groundwater) has stopped moving toward the Lab’s southern boundary. (A map comparing the HFBR sampling data from 1997 to 2001 can be viewed here.)
Brookhaven has published site environmental reports each year from 1962 to 1966 and from 1971 to 2001. Summary reports for the years 1947 to 1961 and 1967 to 1970 are also available. Data summarized in the 2001 report were obtained through testing performed by State-certified Brookhaven or independent laboratories, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, NYSDOH, and NYSDEC. Hard copies of the report are now available. To obtain copies of the report on CD or a summary booklet, call (631) 344-3711 or visit a public library near Brookhaven.