1977 Oil / Solvent Spills

November 1977


In 1977 two fuel oil spills occurred in the vicinity of the Central Steam Facility, Building 610 that resulted in contamination to soil and groundwater. The first, in September 1977, occurred when a tank truck unloading fuel at the fuel-transfer pipe station spilled approximately 250 to 500 gallons of fuel. The fuel, believed to be Number 6 "Bunker C oil," caused excessive back-pressure in the pipeline and ruptured it. The fuel spilled onto the ground and entered an adjacent catch basin with an outlet in the woods east of the Central Steam Facility. The oil reportedly flowed east along a small drainage ditch to a fence, where the oil ponded in a low area. It was then collected with recovery pumps. A bulldozer was used to limit the spread of the oil.

A second spill occurred on November 25, 1977, when approximately 23,000 to 25,000 gallons of waste oil and solvent were released from a ruptured pipe located southeast of the Central Steam Facility and west of North Sixth Street. The mixture was composed of 60 percent Number 6 fuel oil and 40 percent mineral spirits. The pipe ruptured when a nearby empty 5,000 gallon underground storage tank (UST), which was enclosed in a concrete structure, rose off its mount as a result of water accumulating beneath the tank, shearing the connecting lines. The spill, which covered an estimated area of 1.2 acres, was contained with sand berms. Free product was recovered with portable pumps. The cleanup activities were coordinated with EPA and the steps taken were considered at that time to be appropriate by EPA. The total amount of the soil/solvent mixture that was recovered is unknown. Subsequent investigations determined that residual oil and solvents were left behind. An air sparging and soil vapor extraction well system was installed in 1997 to remediate soil and groundwater


The Central Steam Facility, Building 610, heats and cools all major BNL facilities. It consists of a network of 21 aboveground receiving and mixing fuel tanks, which are connected via aboveground and underground pipelines to the boiler building located near the corner of Sixth Street and Cornell Avenue. The tanks are now registered with the Suffolk County Department of Health Services (SCDHS), and the Lab has a Major Petroleum Facility License from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Water Resources. The two significant spills of heating oil and solvents discussed above are documented as are several smaller spills of 1 to 10 gallons that occurred in 1988, 1990, and 1993.

The Central Steam Facility is located in OU IV and is designated as AOC 5. Operable Unit IV was one of the first Operable Units studied at the Laboratory following its listing as a Superfund site. The primary contaminants found in the OU IV groundwater plume include trichloroethane, tetrachloroethylene, dichloroethene, trichlororethylene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene (volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds). Characterization studies in the mid-90s revealed that the plume reached from the 1977 spill area to an area south between the site boundary and Carleton Drive (off-site).

Description of Remedial Action

The cleanup remedy selected for the 1977 spill area consisted of an Air Sparging / Soil Vapor Extraction treatment system that was installed in 1997 to collect the contaminants from the Central Steam Facility and the fuel unloading area. Forty-eight air sparging wells and 23 soil vapor extraction wells were installed at a cost of $1.3 million. Installation of the system was to prevent additional off-site migration of the contaminants in the most concentrated part of the plume near the southern boundary.

The performance goal for the OU IV system was to remediate the groundwater to the Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) or until monitoring indicated that continued operation was no longer producing significant further reductions in the concentrations of contaminants in soil and groundwater. This goal was met and petitions for system shutdown and closure were approved in December 2000 and July 2003 respectively.

Community Outreach

More than 140 attendees participated in the public meeting on the OU IV Proposed Remedial Action Plan held in December 1995. The public comment period for the review of the Proposed Plan and the Feasibility Study Report ran from November 22, 1995 through January 10, 1996. Copies of the proposed plan and other information were distributed at the meeting and copies of the plan were provided at the EPA Records Room and three local libraries.

Prior to the 1995 meeting community participation activities for OU IV included a public comment period held on the OU IV Remedial Investigation / Feasibility Study Work Plan in 1992, a Pubic Notice was published and a mailing to stakeholders was sent out on the completed Engineering Evaluation Report and Action Memorandum for the soil Interim Removal Action in 1994, and a Public Notice was published and comment period held on the Remedial Investigation / Risk Assessment Report in January 1995. In January 1996, a Community Work Group was established to provide a mechanism for community residents to express their views and concerns to BNL staff.

Documents / Links

OU IV Record of Decision

Operable Unit IV Five-Year Review