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Building 134
P.O. Box 5000
Upton, NY 11973-5000
phone 631 344-2345
fax 631 344-3368

managed for the U.S. Department of Energy
by Brookhaven Science Associates, a company
founded by Stony Brook University and Battelle

News Release

Released: September 22, 2003
Contact: Pete Genzer 631 344-3174 or John Carter, 631 344-5195

The following news release has been issued by the U.S. Department of Energy and Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Department of Energy Seeks Public Comment
on Peconic River Cleanup

UPTON, NY - The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is seeking public comment on a cleanup plan for contaminated sediment in sections of the Peconic River on Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) property. The public comment period will be open from September 22 to October 21, 2003. The document, known as the Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis and Action Memorandum: Peconic River Removal Action for Sediment on BNL Property, is available on the BNL web site at , and in the local libraries listed below.

This cleanup plan only addresses contaminated sediments downstream of BNL’s sewage treatment plant, on Laboratory property. A cleanup plan for the remaining contaminated sediments, in portions of the river downstream of Laboratory property, will be released in several months.


BNL has operated its sewage treatment plant since the Laboratory was established in 1947. Historical operations and disposal practices resulted in the discharge into the Peconic River of wastewater containing chemical and radiological contaminants, which were then deposited in the sediment. Regulations governing the plant have become more stringent through the years, and BNL has periodically upgraded the plant to comply with changing regulations and increase the removal of pollutants. Wastewater from Laboratory operations is processed and treated at the plant before being discharged into the Peconic River on BNL property, and is currently monitored at the discharge point and several upstream and downstream locations.

Since 1994, DOE and BNL have conducted a detailed investigation of sediment, fish, and plants in on and off-site portions of the Peconic River. Sampling indicates that there are elevated levels of mercury, silver, copper, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and other contaminants in sediments on and just downstream of the Laboratory property. Elevated levels of mercury and PCBs have also been detected in fish. The New York State Department of Health has evaluated the fish samples and determined that consumption within the state guidelines for freshwater fish is acceptable.

Recommended Cleanup Method

Based on these earlier investigations and input received from BNL’s regulatory agencies and members of the public, the Department of Energy developed four cleanup alternatives for the portion of the river on BNL property. For comparison purposes only, the first alternative is a “No Action” alternative. The remaining alternatives all call for the removal of various amounts of sediment, and all would use low-impact, conventional and specialized construction and sediment-removal equipment. Under these alternatives, excavated sediment would be shipped off site to an appropriate disposal facility, and river wetlands would be restored as needed.

After considering all available information, and receiving additional input from regulatory agencies and many community members, DOE, and BNL are recommending the fourth alternative. Under the recommended alternative, nearly all of the sediment contained within the river’s depositional areas on Laboratory property would be removed. Field screening and confirmatory sampling would be conducted prior to the start of the project to define the amount of sediment that needs to be removed from these areas.

The $7,900,000 project is expected to result in an estimated 95 percent reduction of mercury in river sediments on Laboratory property. Other co-located contaminants will also be removed. The cleanup plan includes wetland reconstruction and long-term monitoring of surface water, sediment, and fish to evaluate cleanup effectiveness.

DOE and BNL believe this alternative represents the best balance of the remedy selection criteria detailed in the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as “Superfund.” CERCLA requires that the cleanup option selected be protective of human health and the environment. Other considerations include cost, ease of implementation, and short and long-term effectiveness.

The proposed cleanup plan will protect human health and the environment by removing contaminated sediment and limiting movement of contaminants off of Laboratory property. It will also contribute to the reduction of mercury in fish tissue.

A map showing the areas where sediment removal is planned can be found at .

Next Steps

DOE and BNL encourage public input to ensure that the cleanup decision for the Peconic River is considerate of community expectations and is protective of human health and the environment. The community has already played an integral role in shaping the four cleanup alternatives. Comments on this cleanup recommendation will provide additional assurance of an appropriate cleanup.

Interested community members may attend either or both of two upcoming meetings to speak with project personnel and learn more about the proposed cleanup. The information sessions will be held at the following times and locations:

- October 7, 2003, 7-9 p.m., Cornell Cooperative Extension, Griffing Ave., Riverhead

- October 15, 2003, 7-9 p.m., Berkner Hall, Brookhaven National Laboratory

Formal written comments will be accepted for a period of 30 days, from September 22, 2003 through October 21, 2003. Upon completion of the public comment period, a “responsiveness summary” will be written and appended to the document. The responsiveness summary will include the DOE response to public comments and identify any changes that may have occurred as a result of those comments. After considering public comments, DOE will make a decision on the cleanup remedy for river sediments on Laboratory property.

The Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis and Action Memorandum: Peconic River Removal Action for Sediment on BNL Property is available at public libraries in Middle Island and Shirley, at the BNL library, and at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region II library in New York City. For further information, call Ken White, Brookhaven National Laboratory, at 631 344-4423, or John Carter, U.S. Department of Energy, at 631 344-5195, or visit the website at .

Public comments should be mailed to Mike Holland, Brookhaven Area Office Manager, U.S. Department of Energy - Brookhaven Area Office, Bldg. 464, P.O. Box 5000, Upton, NY 11973-5000.

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 funds the cleanup program.