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Environmental Cleanup Accomplishments

Photo of the Brookhaven site

Stakeholder Involvement

Many community members have been following the cleanup process at BNL since the contamination was first discovered, and the Lab has encouraged extensive public participation and input as part of the cleanup process. Some of these individuals formed independent groups that focused on providing the Lab and DOE with a community perspective on the cleanup.

In 1996, the Lab formed a community working group in response to community requests. This citizens’ group consisted of civic leaders and others interested in learning more about the Lab’s activities and operations. In 1998, many individuals from this original group joined other interested stakeholders in forming the Community Advisory Council (CAC). Currently, the CAC includes representatives from 27 community, civic, employee, environmental, education, and health- related organizations.

Since 1998, the CAC has played a key role by participating in the decision-making processes and advising  Laboratory management on cleanup issues and other topics important to the community. The group meets monthly and sets its own agenda; meetings are open to the public, and people who may be interested in serving on the Council are encouraged to attend.

Environmental Cleanup – Status

In October 2005, the U.S. Department of Energy and Brookhaven National Laboratory marked the completion of major environmental restoration projects on and near the Laboratory site. The high-priority cleanup work was defined in a 1992 agreement among DOE, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). These agencies, along with the New York State Department of Health and Suffolk County Departments of Health Services and Parks, played key roles in all aspects of the investigation and cleanup process. The Lab also worked very closely with the community, soliciting input from the Community Advisory Council and from the general public through meetings, informational sessions, and comment periods on key cleanup proposals.

The cleanup at the Lab has proceeded under the rigorous process set by the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation & Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980, which is administered by the EPA. All groundwater clean-up systems are installed and will continue to operate until groundwater cleanup goals have been reached. The Peconic River and soil cleanup projects are complete. The Brookhaven Graphite Research Reactor (BGRR) graphite pile was successfully dismantled in 2010, and in 2012, the removal of the thermo- and bio- shield was completed. In August 2010, the High Flux Beam Reactor (HFBR) confinement building was placed in long-term safe storage until the radiation levels in the large components decay enough to allow safe removal. Removal of the 320-foot red and white reactor stack is expected to be completed by 2020. The reactor large components - the vessel, thermal and bio-shield - within the confinement building will be monitored until they can be safely removed in approximately 65 years (before 2072).

The Groundwater Protection Group, as part of the Environmental Protection Division, is responsible for the long-term surveillance, monitoring, maintenance, operating, and reporting, as well as the community involvement activities that are required to complete the CERCLA environmental cleanup activities at the Lab.

Environmental Stewardship Today

Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Department of Energy (DOE) take environmental stewardship very seriously. As part of the Lab’s commitment to environmentally responsible operations, it established the BNL Environmental Management System (EMS). The Lab’s EMS ensures that environmental issues are systematically identified, controlled, and monitored. Moreover, the EMS provides mechanisms for responding to changing environmental conditions and requirements, reporting on environmental performance, and reinforcing continual improvement. The cornerstone of the Lab’s EMS is a Laboratory Environmental, Safety, Security and Health (ESSH) Policy. Specific environmental commitments include compliance, pollution prevention, conservation, and community outreach. Read the full ESSH policy (PDF).

One measure of an effective EMS is recognition of good environmental performance. In 2007, the Lab was recognized with eight environmental awards including three DOE Pollution Prevention and Environmental Stewardship Accomplishment Awards for EMS, composting, and recycling efforts.

The Lab’s EMS was designed to meet the rigorous requirements of the globally recognized International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14001 Environmental Management Standard, with additional emphasis on compliance, pollution prevention, and community involvement. Annual audits are required to maintain EMS registration, and recertification audits of the entire EMS occur every three years. The most recent EMS recertification audit, in June 2012, determined that the Lab remains in conformance with the ISO 14001 Standard.