Activist Groups Calls for LANL's Closure of Area G Dump

* A coalition of 27 political and environmental groups, including CCNS, sent a letter this week to Environment Department Secretary Pete Maggiore calling for the closure of the illegal Los Alamos National Laboratory (or LANL) hazardous waste dump at Area G. The letter, which was spearheaded by the Los Alamos Study Group, alleges that the dump should be closed for violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (or RCRA).

Area G began receiving waste in 1957, before there were laws regulating the disposal of hazardous waste. In 1980, RCRA was enacted, forcing LANL to receive permission from the federal government to dump hazardous wastes at Area G. LANL submitted Part A of its RCRA permit request in 1980 and received "interim status" permission to continue disposal. However, LANL never submitted Part B of their application, and in 1985, withdrew Part A and stopped receiving hazardous waste at Area G.

Nevertheless, Area G was under RCRA regulations from 1980 to 1985. Therefore, as the letter states, LANL has a requirement under RCRA to "promptly, formally, and fully close Area G, and to develop, with full public participation, binding plans and commitments to remove, partially remove, or permanently stabilize Area G's waste..." However, LANL has not made plans for any such action.

The letter asserts that these steps required by RCRA are necessary due to the environmental instability of the site. According to the letter, waste is stored at Area G in shallow, unlined pits and trenches, which, when full, are covered with three feet of sandy volcanic tuff and topped with a concrete plug. There are no caps or liners in the site and there has never been a total inventory of the waste stored there. Estimates say that the waste stored in Area G already exceeds the capacity of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad.

Local groundwater sources have already shown signs of having been contaminated by the wastes stored in Area G. A test well adjacent to the site tested positive for low levels of tritium and technetium-99. Of the nearby water sources, the letter says, "... common sense dictates that under no circumstances should the dumping of nuclear waste in shallow, unlined pits directly above our streams and drinking water supplies be an option that is seriously considered."

The Study Group has been campaigning for the closure of Area G since last year. Lindsay Lovejoy, of the Attorney General's office wrote to James Bearzi, Chief of the Hazardous Waste Bureau of the New Mexico Environment Department (or NMED) about the matter. Lovejoy's letter to Bearzi said, "We have pointed out to NMED that these [Material Disposal Areas] were long ago required to stop receiving waste, have an approved closure plan, and close, but this has not happened." Bearzi has yet to respond to Lovejoy's letter.

Greg Lewis, of NMED's Water and Waste Management Division, said that the department generally agrees with the claims made by the activist groups and is currently looking for options for dealing with the landfill. Lewis said, "They've made credible arguments. We're giving them our full consideration and are in the throes of addressing it."

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