Surface Water and Wastewater



A. Rainwater   §5.2

Figure 5-1: Rainwater and Lake Sampling Locations

Figure 5-2: Rainwater Radiological Monitoring Results

B. Creeks   §5.3

Figure 5-3: Creek Sampling Locations

Figure 5-4: Creek Tritium Monitoring Results

Figure 5-5: Annual Averages for Tritium in Chicken Creek (1994–1999)

C. Lakes   §5.4

D. Hydraugers   §5.5

Figure 5-6: Hydrauger Sampling Locations

Figure 5-7: Hydrauger Tritium Monitoring Results

E. Stormwater   §5.6

Figure 5-8: Stormwater Sampling Locations


Figure 5-9: Sanitary Sewer System


A. Hearst and Strawberry Sewer Outfalls   §5.8

1. Nonradiological Monitoring   §5.9

Figure 5-10: Concentration of Metals in Hearst and Strawberry
                      Sewer Water Samples as a Percentage of Permit Limit

2. Radiological Monitoring   §5.10

Figure 5-11: Radioisotopes Discharged to Sewers in 1999
                      as a Percentage of Permit Limit

Figure 5-12: Annual Releases of Tritium to Sewers (1995–1999) as a
                      Percentage of Permit Limit

B. Building 25 Photo Fabrication Shop Wastewater   §5.11

C. Building 77 Ultra-High Vacuum Cleaning Facility Wastewater   §5.12

D. Treated Hydrauger and Extraction Well Discharge   §5.13

§5.1      I. Surface Water Program

Berkeley Lab’s surface water monitoring includes rainwater, creeks, lakes, hydraugers, and stormwater. The first four surface water types are monitored primarily for gross alpha, gross beta, and tritium, based on DOE orders1 that prescribe monitoring for radioisotopes. Nonradiological sampling of surface water occurs as part of the Laboratory’s ongoing efforts to characterize and manage its overall impact on the environment. Stormwater monitoring is performed under the California General Permit for Stormwater Discharges Associated with Industrial Activities2 and includes monitoring for metals and other constituents. The monitoring programs for each type of surface water are further described in this chapter.

To place the Laboratory’s results in a familiar context, this chapter cites drinking water standards as a comparison for results from certain sampling programs. In actuality, the drinking water standard is not a compliance standard for the surface water program (no such standard exists), and the water being monitored is not a source of public drinking water.

The federal and state maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for alpha and beta radioactivity in drinking water are 0.6 Bq/L (15 pCi/L) and 1.9 Bq/L (50 pCi/L), respectively.3 The Environmental Protection Agency tritium concentration limit for drinking water is 740 Bq/L (20,000 pCi/L).4

Surface water samples were analyzed in 1999 by both commercial and in-house state-certified laboratories. Individual results can be found in Volume II.


§5.2      A. Rainwater

Monthly rainwater composite samples are collected when rainfall occurs. In 1999, April, May, June, July, August, September, and October were dry months, so no samples were collected for those months.

Samples collected throughout the year came from three locations. See Figure 5-1. One location (ENV-75) is on-site near Building 75. Of the two off-site locations, one (ENV-B13C) is south of Berkeley Lab on Panoramic Hill, and one (ENV-B13D) is located northwest of the Lawrence Hall of Science.

Figure 5-1      Rainwater and Lake Sampling Locations

Samples were analyzed for tritium and gross alpha and beta radiation. Figure 5-2 summarizes the levels of alpha, beta, and tritium seen in rainwater samples taken during 1999. Results for alpha and beta activity were all below federal and state MCLs for drinking water.

   a 1 Bq = 27 pCi
   b Mean was less than the highest minimum detectable amount for
    the analyte at this site (0.11 Bq/L for alpha and 7 Bq/L for

Figure 5-2      Rainwater Radiological Monitoring Results

Tritium was not detected in rainwater collected at the off-site locations. On-site, tritium in rainwater was measured only twice at ENV-75, with the maximum in December (14 Bq/L or 378 pCi/L). For comparison, the maximum tritium level in rainwater represents approximately 1.9% of the US/EPA drinking water limit.

§5.3      B. Creeks

Given Berkeley Lab’s location in the hills of the Strawberry Creek watershed, many streams and creeks at and near the site flow at varying intensities throughout the course of the year. When creek flow occurs, a grab sample is collected and analyzed quarterly for alpha and beta activity and tritium. Creeks routinely sampled during 1999 were Chicken Creek, Claremont Creek, the North Fork of Strawberry Creek, Strawberry Creek (UC), and Wildcat Creek. For creek sampling locations, see Figure 5-3.

Figure 5-3      Creek Sampling Locations

A second set of creeks was sampled once and analyzed for tritium, metals, and volatile organic compounds. These creeks (also shown in Figure 5-3) include Botanical Garden Creek, Cafeteria Creek, No Name Creek, Ravine Creek, and Ten-Inch Creek. No volatile organic compounds were detected at all. Some metals were present, including arsenic, barium, chromium, copper, molybdenum, nickel, selenium, vanadium, and zinc—all in low amounts that are within background levels for this site and are well below Basin Plan limits. See §5.6.

No alpha activity was detected at any sampling site, with the exception of a low amount at Chicken Creek during the December sampling. Small amounts of beta activity were occasionally seen in all creeks except Wildcat Creek. Tritium was generally not detected, except in Chicken Creek, where it was seen at low levels. A summary of tritium results above detection limits for creek sampling in 1999 is shown in Figure 5-4.

     a 1 Bq = 27 pCi
     b Mean was less than the highest minimum detectable amount
           for the analyte at this site (6–11 Bq/L).

Figure 5-4      Creek Tritium Monitoring Results

Chicken Creek is the only creek in which tritium has been found with any regularity. Figure 5-5 presents a comparison of the annual mean for tritium over the last five years in Chicken Creek. From a high of 43.9 Bq/L (1,190 pCi/L) in 1995, levels dropped by nearly half in 1996 to 23 Bq/L (620 pCi/L) and have remained reasonably consistent since then. The annual average for 1999, 17.8 Bq/L (481 pCi/L), represents a new low.

          *1 Bq = 27 pCi

Figure 5-5      Annual Averages for Tritium in Chicken Creek (1995–1999)

§5.4      C. Lakes

Lake sampling is performed once each year at Lake Anza in Tilden Regional Park and at Lake Temescal in Oakland’s Temescal Regional Park. See Figure 5-1. In 1999, samples from both lakes did not contain gross alpha or beta activity or tritium above minimum detectable amounts.

§5.5      D. Hydraugers

Because of its steep hillsides, Berkeley Lab uses hydraugers to manage soil stability. Hydraugers are perforated pipes inserted into a hillside to improve drainage of groundwater. Figure 5-6 shows the locations of monitored hydraugers. Summary tritium data for hydraugers are displayed in Figure 5-7.

Figure 5-6      Hydrauger Sampling Locations

        a 1 Bq = 27 pCi
          b Mean and/or maximum was less than the highest minimum detectable amount (11 Bq/L).

Figure 5-7       Hydrauger Tritium Monitoring Results

Four hydrauger sites (HYG77-0101, HYG77-02XX, HYGCC1, and HYGCC2) were routinely monitored in 1999 for alpha, beta, and tritium. HYG77-0104 has been deleted from the program because of lack of flow. HYG77-02XX is a manifold of several hydraugers (HYG77-0204 through HYG77-0207) and is sampled at the common discharge point. Hydraugers prefixed with HYG77 are located behind Building 77, while those prefixed with HYGCC are located near Chicken Creek, further to the south and further down the hillside.

Because hydrauger flow depends on several factors (including rainfall), it can vary considerably. No flow or very low flow prevents samples from being taken. At the hydraugers that could be sampled, no alpha or beta activity was detected. Tritium was detected only in the samples collected from the HYG77 hydraugers. The highest level measured was 341 Bq/L (9,207 pCi/L) for a sample collected at HYG77-0101—a decrease from last year’s maximum of 504 Bq/L (13,608 pCi/L).

§5.6      E. Stormwater

Berkeley Lab lies within the Blackberry Canyon and Strawberry Canyon watersheds. There are two main creeks in the watershed, Strawberry Creek and the North Fork of Strawberry Creek, plus several small tributaries that generally do not flow all year long. See Figure 5-8.

Figure 5-8      Stormwater Sampling Locations

Surface runoff from Berkeley Lab is substantial because of the site’s hillside location, the amount of paved or covered surface, and the moderate annual rainfall. All stormwater runoff from the site drains through its stormwater drainage system to Strawberry Creek or its north fork, which join below the Laboratory on the UC Berkeley campus.

Under the State of California’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program, Berkeley Lab must follow the General Permit for Stormwater Discharges Associated with Industrial Activities.5 Permit holders must develop and maintain a Storm Water Monitoring Plan (SWMP)6 and a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP).7 These are the guiding documents for the Laboratory’s compliance with stormwater regulations. For further discussion of this compliance program, see §§3.24 and 3.26.

Berkeley Lab’s SWMP explains the rationale for sampling, sampling locations, and the kinds of radiological and nonradiological analyses to be performed. For metals, the permit requires analysis for total metals. Following a request from the City of Berkeley, however, Berkeley Lab has committed to analyzing at least one sample per stormwater year for both total and dissolved metals as a comparison. Dissolved metals are consistently lower than total metals. Sampling points are shown in Figure 5-8.

Two of the monitoring points, StW01 and StW03, are influent points, where stormwater comes onto the site from residential areas, roads, and UC Berkeley campus facilities located above Berkeley Lab. These points were chosen as a basis of comparison and to aid in an investigation if contaminants are found.

Under the terms of the General Permit, sampling must take place at least twice each “stormwater year” (July 1 through June 30) under specific conditions. Monitoring also includes visual observation of one storm per month and quarterly observation of authorized and unauthorized nonstormwater discharges. All sampling points must be monitored for the following:

Note that in calendar year 1999, stormwater monitoring was performed three times due to rainfall patterns during the 1998–1999 stormwater year, which caused monitoring to occur only once in calendar year 1998.

In 1999, pH was always near neutral, and total petroleum hydrocarbons (diesel) and oil and grease (both tests for gas or oil) were often seen in very low quantities at all sampling points. Specific conductance, usually a measure of the degree of mineralization of water, was low and within the range of domestic drinking water. The measure for total suspended solids (TSS) was also usually very low, indicating clear water. Chemical oxygen demand, filtered (CODF), is a measure that can be correlated to the amount of organic matter in the water. CODF results in stormwater discharge for the Laboratory were generally low. Nutrients such as ammonia as nitrogen and nitrate plus nitrite were also seen at all stations at low levels.

Metals results were generally in the “nondetect” range. Only aluminum, iron, thallium, and manganese were occasionally seen above detection levels in the total metals analyses. The General Permit does not contain specific discharge limits for metals. For comparison purposes, Table 4-3 of the Basin Plan8 gives effluent limitations for selected toxic pollutants discharged to shallow surface waters applicable to point source discharges from Publicly Owned Treatment Works (like EBMUD) and industrial effluent.

Routine stormwater samples are also analyzed for alpha and beta emitters and tritium. No alpha emitters were detected. Beta was sometimes detected in miniscule amounts at all locations except 71-Storm Drain Manhole. All tritium values were low or nondetect, with a maximum of 79.3 Bq/L (2,141 pCi/L) at Building 69 Influent (StW03). The influent point at Building 69 consistently has the highest values for tritium in stormwater. The tritium value for the corresponding effluent point, Chicken Creek or StW04, was about half that level at 40 Bq/L (1,080 pCi/L).


The Laboratory’s sanitary sewer system is based on gravity flow and discharges through one of two monitoring stations, Hearst or Strawberry (see Figure 5-9):

Self-monitoring of wastewater discharge within Berkeley Lab also occurs at Buildings 25 and 77 and at groundwater treatment units (see Table 6-5), according to the terms of their respective EBMUD permits.9

Figure 5-9      Sanitary Sewer System

Berkeley Lab currently has four wastewater discharge permits issued by EBMUD: one for general site-wide discharges, two for the metal finishing operations found in Buildings 25 and 77, and one for the discharge of treated groundwater from hydraugers. EBMUD renews the site’s wastewater discharge permits annually in September, except for the treated groundwater permit, which is granted for two years. EBMUD is the local Publicly Owned Treatment Works that regulates all industrial discharges to its treatment facilities.

As in previous years, the Laboratory’s 1999–2000 permit required monitoring of wastewater discharge four times per year and metals analysis once per year at times specified in the permit. EBMUD continues to perform unannounced monitoring four times per year. There were no changes in permit requirements, although EBMUD returned to a stated limit of 0.5 mg/L for total identifiable chlorinated hydrocarbons and dropped the limit of 0.1 mg/L for methylene chloride alone. All sampling results are presented in Volume II.


§5.8      A. Hearst and Strawberry Sewer Outfalls

Sanitary sewer discharge monitoring is divided into two major types: nonradiological and radiological. Nonradiological monitoring is generally termed “self-monitoring” and is mandated in the wastewater discharge permits granted to Berkeley Lab by EBMUD. Site-wide samples are always analyzed for pH, total identifiable chlorinated hydrocarbons, total suspended solids, and chemical oxygen demand, with additional analyses for metals required once during the permit year.

Radiological monitoring is required by DOE guidance10 and orders,11 but it also ensures compliance with the radiological limits given in the California Code of Regulations.12 California regulations now incorporate by reference the applicable federal regulations13 and associated discharge limits.

Analysis is performed by a state-certified commercial laboratory. Results are compared against the discharge limits for each parameter given in the permits, and self-monitoring reports are submitted to EBMUD following permit requirements.

§5.9      1. Nonradiological Monitoring

Four nonradiological self-monitoring samples were taken from the Hearst and Strawberry outfalls during 1999. All results were well within discharge limits, as were all measurements made by EBMUD in its independent samplings. Analysis for metals was required for only one of the four samples and was carried out at the November sampling. Most metals were not detected above detection limits in either Hearst or Strawberry outfalls. Figure 5-10 shows the metals results for the 1999 sampling as a percentage of permit discharge limits.

        *Metal concentration was nondetectable.

Figure 5-10      Concentration of Metals in Hearst and Strawberry
Sewer Water Samples as a Percentage of Permit Limit

No chlorinated hydrocarbons were found at all, except for chloroform, which is present in EBMUD supply water, and a one-time small amount of methylene chloride in Hearst Sewer. According to the permit, the pH level must remain at no less than 5.5; all results for 1999 were well above this. Total suspended solids and chemical oxygen demand are measured to determine wastewater strength, which forms the basis for EBMUD’s charges to the Laboratory for wastewater treatment. Starting with the 1997–1998 permit, Berkeley Lab is expected to estimate the average and maximum wastewater strength for the coming year in its permit application, and these then become the permit limits. The estimates for 1999 met EBMUD’s standard.

§5.10      2. Radiological Monitoring

The Hearst and Strawberry sewer outfalls are sampled continuously by automatic equipment that collects samples at half-hour intervals. The composite samples are collected biweekly for subsequent analysis of gross alpha, gross beta, iodine-125, and tritium by a state-certified laboratory. Some split samples were occasionally analyzed by a third laboratory for additional quality control purposes.

The federal13 and state12 regulatory limits are based on total amounts released per year. For tritium, this limit is 1.9 × 1011 Bq (5 curies) per year. The limit for all other radioisotopes is a combined 3.7 × 1010 Bq (1 curie) per year. Radioisotopes discharged in Berkeley Lab’s sewer wastewater for 1999, expressed as a percentage of their permit limit, are summarized in Figure 5-11.

Figure 5-11      Radioisotopes Discharged to Sewers
in 1999 as a Percentage of Permit Limit

Alpha emitters, which can potentially come from transuranic and heavy-element research, were seen at Hearst Station twice at very low levels and not at all at Strawberry Station. Beta emitters, including iodine-125 from biomedical research, were usually detected in both sewers at low levels, generally with less at Strawberry than at Hearst. The maximum concentration of beta emitters for the year was 0.9 Bq/L (24.3 pCi/L), while the highest I-125 concentration was 5.04 Bq/L (136 pCi/L), both at Hearst Station. For a complete set of the individual results, see the data tables in Volume II.

With one exception, tritium levels were below the minimum detectable amount at Hearst Monitoring Station. Tritium levels were above detection limits at Strawberry Monitoring Station. The total annual discharge of tritium in wastewater was 1.78 ´ 109 Bq (0.048 Ci), and the total for other radioisotopes was 4.2 ´ 108 Bq (0.011 Ci). The amount of tritium was below last year’s level by an order of magnitude, while the total for other radioisotopes remained about the same. All values, however, were well below allowable limits. For example, tritium was only 1% of the allowable federal and state limit, and all other isotopes together were also approximately 1% of their limit.

Figure 5-12 trends the total amount of tritium released to Berkeley Lab’s sewers over the last five years. Results are consistently under 10% of the permitted level, varying from about 1% to 9%.

Figure 5-12      Annual Releases of Tritium to Sewers (1995–1999)
as a Percentage of Permit Limit

§5.11      B. Building 25 Photo Fabrication Shop Wastewater

The Photo Fabrication Shop in Building 25 manufactures electronic printed circuit boards and screen print nomenclature on panels to support the needs of Berkeley Lab research and operations. Wastewater containing metals and other hazardous materials from these operations is routed to a fixed treatment unit (FTU) before discharge to the sanitary sewer. The Building 25 FTU treats wastewater in batch mode.

All sampling performed by Berkeley Lab and EBMUD during two monitoring efforts each yielded daily maximum and monthly average results well within EBMUD discharge limits.9

§5.12      C. Building 77 Ultra-High Vacuum Cleaning Facility Wastewater

The Ultra-High Vacuum Cleaning Facility (UHVCF) at Building 77 cleans various types of metal parts used in research and support operations at Berkeley Lab. Cleaning operations include passivating, acid and alkaline cleaning, and ultrasonic cleaning. During 1999, four overflow rinse tanks were converted to electronically controlled spray rinse tanks—a practice now in general use in metal finishing operations. This step is likely to save a considerable amount of water as well as to reduce both the use of chemicals and the amount of sludge generated as waste.

Acid and alkaline rinsewaters containing metals from UHVCF operations are routed to a nearby 227-liter (60-gallon) per minute fixed treatment unit, designated FTU 006. A task force investigating 1998 permit exceedances at this unit recommended modification of the unit by its manufacturer, training for operators, and use of an up-to-date manual. These corrective actions were taken, and all self-monitoring and EBMUD inspection samples taken during 1999 were well within permitted limits.

§5.13      D. Treated Hydrauger and Extraction Well Discharge

Since 1993, EBMUD has permitted Berkeley Lab to discharge treated groundwater to the sanitary sewer. The treatment process consists of passing the contaminated groundwater through a double-filtered carbon adsorption system.

The EBMUD permit allows for discharge of treated groundwater from certain hydrauger treatment systems and extraction wells, plus well samplings and developments. All treated groundwater discharged under the permit is routed through the Hearst Sewer. One of the conditions for this discharge is a semiannual report on the volumes treated and discharged and any contaminants found.

Tests using US/EPA-approved methodologies are run monthly on treated groundwater to determine levels of volatile organic compounds. Most results have been “nondetect.” Occasional detections of certain chlorinated hydrocarbons have been extremely low (parts per billion) and do not exceed allowable limits. As a precautionary measure, a sample is taken from between the two drums of carbon in each system to assist in determining when the first drum should be changed out. This prevents contaminated groundwater from being discharged to the sanitary sewer. For further discussion of groundwater monitoring and treatment, see Chapter 6.