CCNS and HOPE Request the Water Quality Control Commission to Lift its Stay on Review of Groundwater Discharge Permit DP-1132 for LANL
On May 5, 2022, the New Mexico Environment Department issued discharge permit DP-1132 under the New Mexico Water Quality Act for the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility (RLWTF) at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The RLWTF manages hazardous waste and the Water Quality Act is expressly limited so that it does not apply to a hazardous waste facility. Nevertheless, the Environment Department issued LANL a Water Quality Act permit for the RLWTF.
On June 6th non-governmental organizations, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS) and Honor Our Pueblo Existence (HOPE), filed a Petition for Review of DP-1132 with the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission. https://www.env.nm.gov/opf/docketed-matters/ , click on Water Quality Control Commission, scroll down to Case No. WQCC 22-21 Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety and Honor Our Pueblo Existence’s Petition for Review of NMED Ground Water Discharge Permit DP-1132.
CCNS and HOPE asked for the Commission to review DP-1132 because the RLWTF handles, treats and stores hazardous waste. All hazardous waste facilities in New Mexico are regulated by Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), as implemented by the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act.
RCRA regulations protect human health and the environment much more thoroughly than the Water Quality Act does. LANL plans to use the RLWTF to receive and treat radioactive and hazardous liquid waste from plutonium pit production, using tanks, pipes, containers, and evaporative disposal methods. With such dangerous wastes, it is essential to follow rigorous RCRA requirements for tanks systems and to assess seismic vulnerability since LANL is in the Pajarito Fault Zone.
CCNS and HOPE argued to the Water Quality Control Commission that the permit must be reversed and remanded to the Environment Department because the Water Quality Act expressly does not apply to a hazardous waste facility. § 74-6-12.B NMSA 1978. It states:
B. The Water Quality Act does not apply to any activity or condition subject to the authority of the environmental improvement board pursuant to the Hazardous Waste Act [Chapter 74, Article 4 NMSA 1978], . . . except to abate water pollution or to control the disposal or use of septage and sludge.
The Commission did not rule on the CCNS and HOPE request. Instead, on August 30, 2022, at the request of Triad National Security, LLC, the principal LANL contractor, and the Environment Department, the Commission stayed the permit review of DP-1132. That means that the appeal is suspended. The Commission’s stay, in effect, suspends the operation of the hazardous waste laws for the RLWTF. However, the Commission left the Water Quality Act permit in effect during the stay.
LANL is clearly planning to obtain a long-term RCRA exemption from RCRA for the RLWTF. Based on public hearings in 2010, Section 4.6 of the RCRA hazardous waste permit for LANL requires it to discharge all treated wastewater from the RLWTF through its outfall 051 into Mortandad Canyon. It says that, if another method of wastewater disposal is used, an exemption from RCRA for the RLWTF will be lost.
New Mexico Environment Department Hazardous Waste Permit Condition 4.6 for LANL
4.6 TA-50 RADIOACTIVE LIQUID WASTE TREATMENT FACILITY
The Permittees shall discharge all treated wastewater from the TA-50 Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility (RLWTF) through the outfall permitted under Section 402 of the federal Clean Water Act, or as otherwise authorized by the terms of an applicable Clean Water Act permit that regulates the treatment and use of wastewater. If the Permittees intentionally discharge through a location other than the permitted outfall or as otherwise authorized, they will fail to comply with this requirement, and as a consequence the wastewater treatment unit exemption under 40 CFR § 264.1(g)(6) will no longer apply to the RLWTF. The Permittees shall not accept listed hazardous wastes as specified at 40 CFR Part 261 Subpart D at the RLWTF.
Since November 2010, LANL has used the mechanical evaporator system almost exclusively to dispose of wastewater. In this situation, Hazardous Waste Permit Condition 4.6 would require the RLWTF to be regulated by the hazardous waste laws. CCNS and HOPE intend to make sure that happens.
Lindsay A. Lovejoy, Jr. represents CCNS and HOPE before the Commission. http://lindsaylovejoy.com/
Joni Arends, of CCNS, requests your support to ensure proper regulation of the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility at LANL. To make a financial contribution, please visit our website at http://nuclearactive.org/
- Thursday, October 27, 2022 – Biden Administration releases Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). The NPR is a subset of the National Defense Strategy and begins on p. 33 of the pdf. https://media.defense.gov/2022/Oct/27/2003103845/-1/-1/1/2022-NATIONAL-DEFENSE-STRATEGY-NPR-MDR.PDF
- Friday, October 28th from noon to 1 pm – Join the weekly peaceful protest for nuclear disarmament on the corners of Alameda and Guadalupe in downtown Santa Fe with Veterans for Peace, CCNS, Nuclear Watch NM, Pax Christi and others. Join us about next steps toward nuclear disarmament.
- Friday, October 28th at 8 am MT through Friday, November 4th – viewing of virtual ceremony for the 14th anniversary of the Cold War Patriots National Day of Remembrance. Every October, the Official Cold War Patriots National Day of Remembrance™ (NDR) honors the men and women working in the U.S. nuclear weapon and uranium industries and recognizes those who are no longer with us. Often working in secrecy, these patriots have been instrumental in the protection of our nation — from WWII to today. To register: https://coldwarpatriots.org/about-us/national-day-remembrance-2022/
- Wednesday, November 2nd, in person and virtual Kirtland Bulk Fuels Facility Public Meeting at the New Mexico Veterans Memorial, 1100 Louisiana Blvd. SE from 6 to 8 pm. Learn about the cleanup work performed and future plans to address and remove groundwater contamination at the site. For additional information, contact Ashley Palacios, 377th Air Base Wing Public Affairs at (505) 846-5991 or email at PA@us.af.mil Virtual meeting link: https://www.zoomgov.com/j/1615382169?pwd=djB1L0dsdGdTYXdPSGkwNFJ6VktQUT09
5. Thursday, November 3rd at noon to 1 pm MT – virtual Nuclear Regulatory Commission webinar about the status of the NRC staff’s review of the proposed Holtec HI-STORE Consolidated Interim Storage Facility (CISF) license application. NRC staff will discuss a proposed schedule for issuing its final licensing decision. Please confirm your attendance by Wednesday, November 2nd by contacting: NRC Contact Person: Jose Cuadrado, (301) 415-0606, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information and links: https://www.nrc.gov/pmns/mtg?do=details&Code=20221104
Tags: CCNS, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, exemption, Groundwater Discharge Permit DP-1132, Honor Our Pueblo Existence, HOPE, LANL, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Mechanical Evaporator System, MES, Mortandad Canyon, New Mexico Environment Department, New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act, New Mexico Water Quality Act, Outfall 051, Pajarito Fault Zone, Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility, RCRA, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, RLWTF, Section 4.6, Triad National Security LLC, Water Quality Control Commission