Background Information About Two of the Open Burning and Open Detonation Permits

The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) recently issued two air permits for the open burning of depleted uranium, high explosives, diesel fuel, wood and other materials at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The permits allow LANL to conduct a maximum of 383 open burning activities each year, containing a total amount of 1,584 pounds of depleted uranium (DU), 3,717 pounds of high explosives (HE), 800 gallons of diesel fuel, 91,000 pounds of wood and other assorted materials, including Plexiglas, Lexan and natural and synthetic rubber. We are concerned that these activities do not utilize any type of air pollution control equipment. We are also very concerned about the short and long-term impacts to our health, air, soil and water.

LANL has been conducting open burning and open detonation of these types of materials in canyon bottoms and on mesa tops since they first opened in 1943. Some of these activities involve experiments; others involve treating contaminated waste that cannot be moved because of explosive dangers.

Over the years, the federal and state governments have permitted these activities. However, in June 2004, the state prohibited the open burning of trash in burn barrels because of the amount of hazardous materials that are released, sometimes more than from a licensed municipal incinerator. Under these regulatory changes, LANL was required to submit to a permitting process that required an opportunity for public participation. The groups listed below participated in the process and expressed our concerns. Nevertheless, NMED issued the permits in March 2005.

The groups listed below have appealed the permits to the Environmental Improvement Board, the state administrative agency that has the power to rescind the permits. A hearing is scheduled for December 6th and 7th. We are requesting that the Board rescind the permits. If new permits must be issued, then we are requesting the following requirements be included in them:

  • Real-time monitoring, with analyses, of all open burn/open detonation activities at LANL involving radioactive materials and hazardous chemicals, including dioxin.
  • Monthly soil and water sampling and analyses in neighboring communities.
  • A thorough and timely investigation by NMED and LANL of alternatives to open burn/open detonation practices, including cost estimates for development and a timeline for implementation.
  • Health studies in communities within a 60-mile radius of LANL.

If you would like to express your concerns about this issue, please sign an email postcard requesting our elected decision makers and NMED Secretary Ron Curry to rescind the OB/OD permits. Your support and action is greatly appreciated.

Joni Arends
Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety

Sheri Kotowski
Embudo Valley Environmental Monitoring Group

Kathy Sanchez
Tewa Women United

July 12, 2005