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History, future of toxic spills at Brookhaven Lab

THE HISTORY: Over decades, toxic chemicals used in research or as industrial solvents leached into the grounds and water surrounding Brookhaven National Laboratory, including into parts of North Shirley. In 1997, one of the lab's reactors was found to be leaking radioactive tritium.

THE CLEANUP: Since 1990, $460 million has been spent on cleaning toxic waste and putting in systems to ensure there are no more leaks. Between 1996 and 2005, 16 groundwater treatment systems were constructed. By last year, the system had cleaned 12.8-billon gallons of water and removed about 5,900 pounds of contaminants from the aquifer.

THE LAWSUIT: Residents in North Shirley filed a class-action lawsuit on Feb. 6, 1996, stating they had been harmed by the leaks. In 2005, a judge, siding with Brookhaven lab, dismissed the lawsuit. Following an appeal, in 2007 an appellate court reinstated the suit and said it must be resubmitted to State Supreme Court in Suffolk. On Dec. 23, Acting State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Farneti granted the plaintiffs the right to proceed with a class-action suit.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT:The residents' lawyer is to meet with the judge Jan. 21. The plaintiffs must then notify all current and former residents included in the class-action suit so they may opt out of it if they choose.

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