Discriminatory Public Process Continues for WCS Ground Water Discharge Permit

Nearly one year ago, the New Mexico Environment Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signed an agreement to resolve a discrimination complaint filed in 2002 following the Triassic Park hazardous waste permit proceeding. EPA_FINALResolutionLetterandAgreement_TriassicPark_Complainant_011917

After the Environment Department issued the permit, Citizens for Alternatives to Radioactive Dumping (CARD), the Water Information Network, Conservative Use of Resources and the Environment (CURE), and two individuals filed the complaint with the EPA’s Office of Civil Rights.

They alleged discrimination under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  Further, they alleged that in permitting Triassic Park, the Department “failed to require or perform a scientific investigation into possible disparate impacts; failed to ensure that limited-English proficient Spanish speaking residents were provided a meaningful opportunity for effective public participation in the permitting process;” and that there is a “statewide pattern and practice of similar discrimination in permitting” and in public participation processes throughout New Mexico.

Triassic Park is a proposed hazardous waste dump located east of Roswell.

The Department has implemented some provisions of the Informal Resolution Agreement.  Nevertheless, since signing the Agreement, it has proceeded with over 200 public processes without meeting the public participation requirements.

For example, the Department agreed to create a plan that would be implemented each and every time a public participation process is triggered.  The Agreement requires the Department to create detailed and comprehensive plans for action and outreach to address a potentially impacted community’s needs and concerns; and to describe the community, including its background, history, and demographics.  It requires the Department to create outreach materials, including contact lists of agency officials and local media so that the public may communicate directly with them; a contingency plan for unexpected events; and a list of places where public meetings may be held.  Further, a list of providers for limited-English proficient persons to utilize for translation of documents and to serve as interpreters at meetings; and a physical location where regulatory documents are readily available for review must be provided.

Other uncompleted plans include providing access to the public participation process for persons with limited-English proficiency and those with disabilities, and a plan to train all Environment Department personnel in non-discrimination.

The delays in creating these plans is felt by communities threatened with polluting facilities, such as, the draft ground water discharge permit for Waste Control Specialists, Inc.  The draft permit requires WCS, a limited liability corporation, to monitor the potential discharge into New Mexico from a theoretical maximum of 170,500,000-gallons per day from a 100-year storm from the 14,900-acre radioactive and hazardous waste storage and disposal facility located just over the border in Texas.  WCS operations span the Texas-New Mexico border.  The state line is five miles east of Eunice, New Mexico.

Similar to the Triassic Park permitting process, the potentially impacted communities are located southeastern New Mexico, where Spanish is the dominant language.  Only the public notice that a draft permit is available for review and comment has been translated into Spanish.

The fourth draft permit was released in November, with public comments due before midnight on Tuesday, January 16, 2018 to Steve.Pullen@state.nm.us.  Even so, key documents that were submitted by the public and WCS have not been entered into the index.  The last entries were made nearly a year ago.

The Environment Department is urged, yet again, to stop this comment period until the required plans under the Informal Resolution Agreement have been finalized and all requirements have been met.

For more information and to download the draft permit, please go to the New Mexico Environment Department, Ground Water Quality Bureau at  https://cloud.env.nm.gov/water/resources/_translator.php/3wdGf2YvWP7JR8htsQErkMxbvE56mnoqDRp2BQAIXXbigeEtSCEhgT9cBlqLEUu1aPYvo6Tx0DAyowBTMoUSSk7gr2qkMR5tNQ3BXpawgCApkweWBxpihiBgVxwz9vcXn03lP4jsd1Y=.pdf  The Spanish version of the public notice is available at https://cloud.env.nm.gov/water/resources/_translator.php/3wdGf2YvWP7JR8htsQErkMxbvE56mnoqDRp2BQAIXXbigeEtSCEhgT9cBlqLEUu1aPYvo6Tx0DDsS0jT/S8VGFObFCugq2+2wpMNiJmaeyomt2KB85YPHw9HWiZ8z1ejKa0rq1GDj0s=.pdf

CCNS has prepared sample public comments that you can use to submit your own comments.  They focus on the discriminatory nature of this permitting process.  f_WCS_sample_public_comment_011218


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