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DOE agrees to resume toxic waste cleanup at Bay Area Superfund site / Agency to pay $165,000 for shutting down cleanup systems at nuclear weapons research site

Release Date: 04/01/2009
Contact Information: Wendy Chavez, 415/947-4248,

(San Francisco, Calif. -- 04/01/2009) The U.S. Department of Energy has agreed to resume cleanup of toxic waste at its Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notified the department in early January that it must immediately restart the shuttered treatment facilities or face escalating fines.

DOE will pay a $165,000 fine for shutting down the cleanup systems and failing to restart them as requested by the EPA. Recent sampling showed that the closure of a large treatment unit on the perimeter of the site had resulted in a loss of control of the contaminated groundwater plume offsite.

“We’re pleased to have reached an agreement with DOE to resume cleanup,” said Michael Montgomery, Superfund’s assistant director for the EPA’s Pacific Southwest region. “The taxpayer’s investment in building these cleanup facilities will once again be working to protect the environment.”

Some of the systems at the site have already been restarted and DOE is regaining control of contaminated groundwater. The remaining facilities that need to be restarted are subject to an agreed upon schedule that is enforceable by the EPA under a Federal Facility Agreement. The EPA and DOE have also agreed to re-evaluate the cleanup in areas where it is no longer effective, and will involve state regulatory agencies and community stakeholders in the decision-making.

Recent site history:

      In 2007, the EPA certified that DOE had built the necessary groundwater and soil vapor treatment systems needed to clean up the site. The intention was for DOE to operate the systems until the cleanup standards selected by DOE and the EPA were met. It was estimated that this would take several decades.
      In early 2008, DOE informed the EPA that Congress had reduced funding for the cleanup and that DOE would need to start shutting down the treatment systems. The EPA advised DOE to seek reprogramming of funds from Congress. By the time this was accomplished, 28 treatment systems had been shut down and 60 percent of the technical support staff had been laid off.
      Despite receiving full funding in July 2008, DOE had still not restored operation of most of the systems.

Site background information:
    The one square-mile Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory site is an active multi-program research laboratory operated by Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy. A number of research and support operations at LLNL handle, generate, or manage hazardous materials that include radioactive wastes. Hazardous waste treatment activities are carried out on site. The site first was used as a Naval Air Station in the 1940s. In 1951, it was transferred to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and was established as a nuclear weapons and magnetic fusion energy research facility. In 1984, the California Department of Health Services issued an order for compliance to LLNL to provide alternative water supplies to residents west of the facility, whose wells had been contaminated by hazardous substances from LLNL.
    LLNL is a Superfund site, listed on the National Priorities List as one of the most contaminated sites in the country. The EPA and DOE first signed an agreement to cleanup LLNL in 1988. Groundwater and soil under the site and in neighboring areas are contaminated with volatile organic compounds and other hazardous chemicals.

For additional information about Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Superfund site, please visit: