Pacific Southwest, Region 9: Superfund
Serving Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, the Pacific Islands, and Tribal Nations
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Main Site (USDOE)
EPA #: CA2890012584
Congressional District: 10
Other Names: Livermore Main Site
On this page
Description and History
NPL Listing History
NPL Status: Final
Proposed Date: 10/15/84
Final Date: 07/22/87
The one-square-mile Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) 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 (CDHS) 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. (Another separate and distinct NPL site, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (Site 300), is located 15 miles east of LLNL and has its own web page.) There are approximately 50,000 people living within a 2-mile radius of the main Livermore site. It is located about 45 miles east of San Francisco. Groundwater about 2 miles west of the site in downtown Livermore is used as a municipal drinking water source.
Contaminants and Risks
- Soil and Sludges
Both on- and off-site groundwater have been contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and chromium. Fuel hydrocarbons including benzene and ethylene dibromide, the heavy metal lead, and tritium appear only in wells on site. Soil excavated from the site was contaminated with solvents, radioactive wastes, heavy metals, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and fuel hydrocarbons. Soils remaining on site contain VOCs, tritium, PCBs, fuel hydrocarbons, and inorganic substances. People may face a health threat if they ingest or come in direct contact with contaminated water or soil.
Who is Involved
This site is being addressed as a Federal Facility with DOE as the lead agency. EPA, California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and SF Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) are signatories to the Federal Facility Agreement (FFA).
Investigation and Cleanup Activities
This site is being addressed in two stages: initial actions and a long-term remedial phase focusing on cleanup of the entire site.
Initial Actions: Initial actions included the excavation and removal of 4,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil from several waste disposal pits to certified off-site disposal sites and closure of an inactive landfill, with subsequent removal of approximately 14,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil. LLNL also provided alternative water supplies to residents with wells affected by contamination.
Entire Site: Over the past several years, LLNL constructed several treatment plants for groundwater pumping and treatment and for soil vapor extraction (SVE). These systems will continue to operate until cleanup standards are achieved.
Innovative technologies have played an important role in the remediation of soil and groundwater at the LLNL site. The majority of a 10,000 gallon gasoline spill was remediated within 2 years by using a dynamic underground steam stripping system. Three dimensional characterization of the subsurface and the use of Portable Treatment Units (PTUs) have allowed engineers to address water bearing units for easier plume capture through targeted pump and treat. Advanced vadose zone modeling has helped improve mass removal rates of soil contamination by increasing the effectiveness of the soil vapor extraction (SVE) system. Several areas on the south-side of the Site have VOCs in groundwater that is also contaminated with tritium. The tritiated groundwater is hydrologically contained, remaining in the subsurface and undergoes natural radioactive decay.
In 2007 LLNL began an optimization phase for groundwater cleanup. Technologies are being evaluated to speed the cleanup of VOCs, augment the existing extraction and treatment facilities in-situ, including ethyl lactate, hydro fracking and zero valent iron emplacement, as well as to isolate the tritium.
In 2014, DOE signed an Explanation of Significant Differences adding and implementing Institutional Controls to the remedy with respect to the off-site groundwater plumes. EPA concurred with the decision.
LLNL is conducting Treatability Studies at TFC Hotspot using Zero Valent Iron (fine iron shavings) to form an underground wall to see if it effectively traps and degrades VOCs. At TFD Helipad, LLNL is conducting an In-situ Bio study by injecting ethyl lactate and native bacteria (KBI) into the groundwater to evaluate expedited degradation VOCs in-situ. If either or both studies work, a Feasibility Study leading to an amendment to the remedy would probably be proposed, including public comment.
In 2008, DOE shut down or failed to repair 28 groundwater and soil vapor treatment facilities due to budget cuts. On Jan. 6, 2009 EPA took an enforcement action against DOE which was settled in March 2009. During 2009, DOE brought the shuttered facilities back into operational status. In 2010 DOE began a Focused Feasibility Study (ongoing) to determine the best way to treat and dispose of groundwater with both hazardous and radioactive contaminants (mixed waste). In Summer 2012, DOE constructed a pipeline to transport groundwater from an offsite plume which is currently being captured back to a treatment facility onsite (TFA).
In 1984, the CDHS issued an Order for Compliance to LLNL to provide alternative water supplies and to investigate groundwater quality at LLNL. In 1987, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board (CRWQCB) issued an order directing LLNL to investigate and clean up the on- and off-site contamination. In 1988, LLNL signed an Interagency Agreement (or Federal Facility Agreement) with the EPA, the CDHS, and the CRWQCB to address contamination on and off site.
Cleanup Results to Date
The removal of contaminated soil, provision of alternate drinking water supplies, and use of groundwater and soil vapor treatment systems have reduced the potential of exposure to contaminated materials at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory main site while studies continue and cleanup activities are being conducted.
A small quantity of soil (about 16 cubic feet) containing plutonium that barely exceeded EPA action levels of 10 pico-curies-per-gram (pCi/g) was also removed in early 1996.
An emergency response removal action for PCB-contaminated soils was conducted in September 1997. This was in an area of construction at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) where potential worker exposure was an issue. An Action Memorandum followed and was expected to be finalized in February 1998. A time-critical removal action for PCB-contaminated soils in the East Traffic Circle was conducted in 1999.
This Site reached Construction Completion in 2007. The remedy will continue to operate until cleanup standards are achieved.
Potentially Responsible Parties
Potentially responsible parties (PRPs) refers to companies that are potentially responsible for generating, transporting, or disposing of the hazardous waste found at the site.
DOE is responsible for contamination at this site. They are the lead Agency. Their work is overseen by EPA, as well as the State of California.
Documents and Reports
Public Information Repositories
The public information repositories for the site are at the following locations:
Livermore Public Library,
1000 South Livermore Avenue,
Livermore, CA 94550
Administrative Records and Records of Decision can be found here: http://www-erd.llnl.gov/library/
Records of Decision, other documents, and additional information can be found here: http://www.envirostor.dtsc.ca.gov/public/profile_report.asp?global_id=01730095
EPA Site Manager
Mail Code SFD
75 Hawthorne Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
EPA Community Involvement Coordinator
Mail Code SFD
75 Hawthorne Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
EPA Public Information Center
After Hours (Emergency Response)