LBL Proposes New Hazardous Waste Handling Facility

September 17, 1993

By Lynn Yarris,

Improved safety containment features that will further reduce the risk of accidental release of hazardous wastes highlight LBL's 12.6 million dollar proposed new hazardous waste handling facility.

The proposal, which has undergone all required public hearings and been approved by the necessary government agencies, calls for construction of a 1,100 square meters (approximately 12,000 square feet), two-story building on a 1.2 hectare (three acre) site at the northeastern end of LBL, near Strawberry Canyon.

"Things are going smoothly now," says project manager Joe Harkins of the Facilities Department. "The preliminary design is complete and we expect to have the final design in February."

Ground was broken this past May and construction of the facility is to be completed by January, 1996.

LBL's new hazardous waste handling facility, with its state- of-the-art safety and environmental features, will replace an existing facility made up of several older buildings and cargo containers. The replacement facility was designed by the architectural and engineering firm of Brown and Caldwell, working with Harkins and LBL project engineer Steve Blair. It will be operated by the Laboratory's Environmental Health and Safety Division, which is headed by David McGraw.

Scientific research and related activities at LBL generate small quantities of hazardous and mixed wastes (hazardous waste that is also radioactive). A rigorous waste-minimization program is now underway, but what remains must be properly packaged, consolidated, treated and stored prior to being transported to off-site licensed disposal facilities.

The proposed replacement waste handling facility will not increase the volume of hazardous waste materials produced at the Laboratory but will allow more efficient and orderly waste handling. LBL's facility is entirely separate from the waste handling facility that UC Berkeley wants to build nearby.

The many improved safety features for the proposed waste handling facility include a number of beneficial items not found in the facility being replaced. For example, the new building and yard areas will be constructed on rock and engineered fill that has been compacted and buttressed by reinforced concrete retaining walls designed to resist seismic loading. Furthermore, the building's foundations will consist of drilled piers anchored into bedrock and the building's ground floor slab will be reinforced concrete that resists cracking during an earthquake.

Should any hazardous materials be accidentally released, containment will be provided in all handling and storage areas. For example, in the event of a spill or storage container breach, liquid can not pass through the floors which are made of concrete and covered with a chemical resistant impermeable coating.

Each functional area where hazardous materials are handled or stored will have grated trenches at all door openings, perimeter concrete curbs, and fire-rated walls. This serves to isolate potential spills or fires within the building and prevents incompatible chemicals from mixing.

The improved safety features designed for LBL's replacement waste handling facility are based on the latest standards set by federal and state agencies as well as on the knowledge gained from past waste handling operations at the Laboratory.