Brookhaven Lab Releases Their Environmental Report

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory has issued its 2007 Site Environmental Report. Highlights include significant progress on the environmental cleanup of the site, recognition of pollution prevention initiatives, and reduced environmental effluents and emissions. The document can be found on the internet at

The Site Environmental Report is prepared annually to summarize and document Brookhaven’s environmental data; environmental management performance; compliance with applicable U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), federal, state, and local regulations; and restoration and monitoring programs. It also documents the 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 ten national laboratories owned and funded by 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 limits. Environmental program highlights for 2007 include the following:

  • In 2007, Brookhaven’s pollution prevention program, recycling programs, and conservation initiatives resulted in more than $2.9 million in cost avoidance or savings and supported the reduction or reuse of more than 14.6 million pounds of industrial, sanitary, hazardous, and radiological waste. The Laboratory invested approximately $10,000 in six new pollution-prevention projects, with an annual anticipated savings of approximately $38,000.
  • A 2007 Environmental Management System (EMS) audit determined that Brookhaven remains in conformance with the globally recognized ISO 14001 Standard. 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 was the first Long Island-based operation and the first DOE Office of Science facility to achieve this accreditation. One measure of an effective EMS is recognition of good environmental performance, and, in 2007, the Laboratory received eight national or regional environmental awards.
  • Under the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Performance Track Program, the Laboratory surpassed its goals in increasing Brookhaven’s land and habitat conservation and reducing its radioactive air emissions, its use of ozone-depleting substances, and its mercury inventory. The Performance Track Program recognizes top environmental performance among participating U.S. facilities and is considered the “gold standard” for facility-based environmental performance.
    External regulators conducted 10 environmental inspections at Brookhaven in 2007. Immediate corrective actions were taken to address minor conditions, and no formal notices of violation or enforcement actions were issued as a result of these inspections.
  • The Laboratory continues its successful reductions in the number and severity of spills on site. In 2007, the total number of spills was reduced by 22 percent, from 27 spills in 2006 to 21 in 2007. Nearly all of these spills involved small amounts (less than one gallon) of petroleum-based products or antifreeze, and all were addressed before they caused an environmental impact.
  • Brookhaven conducts ambient radiological air monitoring to verify local air quality and assess possible environmental and health impacts from Lab operations. Data in 2007 showed that on-site radiological air quality was consistent with off-site measurements and with results from locations in New York State that are not located near radiological facilities. In 2007, the dose to a hypothetical member of the public exposed to the maximum level of radiation due to Laboratory air emissions was 0.06 millirem (mrem), or less than 0.03 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 EPA under the Clean Air Act.
  • Waste-water discharges from Brookhaven’s sewage treatment plant, a discharge point regulated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, were within the typical range of historical levels and were well below New York State Drinking Water Standards. The average tritium concentration of 57.4 picocuries per liter in the discharge was slightly higher than in 2006. Low-concentration releases of tritium are expected to continue as piping and tank systems at the High Flux Beam Reactor and the Brookhaven Medical Research Reactor are drained and dried out. Data from upstream, downstream, and control locations showed that the Peconic River water quality on site is indistinguishable from control locations (areas not influenced by Brookhaven operations).
    Discharges to recharge basins showed low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), principally disinfection byproducts generated by the use of chlorine for the control of bacteria and algae in cooling water systems.
  • Levels of cesium-137 (Cs-137) and mercury in Peconic River fish continue to decline, compared with historic values. Cleanup of both on- and off-site portions of the Peconic River in 2004 and 2005 removed approximately 88 percent of the Cs-137 in the sediment, and further decreases in Cs-137 and mercury levels in fish are expected over time. The low levels of mercury and pesticides detected in off-site fish samples did not exceed any standards and do not present a health impact to consumers of such fish.
  • Under the Peconic River project, sediment containing mercury and associated contaminants was removed from the river. This project was completed in the summer of 2005. Sampling results for 2007 showed that 97 percent of samples analyzed met the cleanup goal. One sample exceeded the goal in June and two samples exceeded the goal in August. Further evaluation will include additional sediment and surface water sampling in 2008.
  • The maximum on-site concentration of Cs-137 in deer in 2007 was 17 times lower than the highest level reported in 2006 and much lower than the highest level ever reported a decade ago, in 1996, indicating the effectiveness of soil cleanup work on site. Hunting is not allowed on the Brookhaven site, and the New York State Department of Health has determined that no restrictions on hunting or consumption of deer taken near Brookhaven are needed.
  • The calculated maximum hypothetical radiation doses for a person eating locally caught deer and fish were estimated at 3.02 mrem and 0.08 mrem, respectively. The annual dose from deer meat is based on a consumption estimate of 64 pounds per person, and the dose due to fish is based on an estimate of 15 pounds per person. Both estimates are very conservative.
  • Brookhaven sponsors a variety of educational and outreach activities designed to help participants understand the ecosystem and to foster interest in science. Ecological research is also conducted on site to update the current natural resource inventory, gain a better understanding of the ecosystem, and guide management planning. In 2007, the Lab hosted 16 interns and one faculty member who worked on a variety of projects, including surveying dragonflies and damselflies, radio-tracking turtles, analyzing the water chemistry of coastal plain ponds, investigating turtle and amphibian diseases, investigating the loss of the southern leopard frog on Long Island, determining the genetics of resident gray and red fox at BNL, and studying the health of the banded sunfish population.
  • The Laboratory continues to make significant progress in restoring groundwater on and off site. During 2007, 14 operating treatment systems removed 198 pounds of VOCs and approximately 5.2 millicuries of strontium-90 from the groundwater. More than 1.2 billion gallons of treated groundwater were returned to the aquifer.

Brookhaven has published annual site environmental reports from 1962 to 1966 and from 1971 to 2007. Summary reports for the years 1947 to 1961 and 1967 to 1970 are also available. Data summarized in the 2007 report were obtained through testing performed by New York State-certified laboratories.

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