WIPP Hearing Rescheduled and LANL Wastewater Discharge Permit Meeting To Be Held on Monday, March 20th

  • The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) has rescheduled the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) permit modification hearings to May 31st in Carlsbad at 9am. Public testimony will be heard in Santa Fe on Wednesday, June 7th and Thursday, June 8th at 6pm. The specific locations will be announced soon.

    NMED rescheduled the hearing to allow for negotiations to continue between NMED, the Department of Energy, Southwest Research and Information Center (SRIC), Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS), Citizens for Alternatives to Radioactive Dumping (CARD) and others.

    WIPP is a repository for waste generated from the making of nuclear weapons. It is located 26 miles east of Carlsbad, in a salt mine 2,150 feet underground. The proposed permit modification allows for several changes which are in dispute, such as the disposal of higher level nuclear waste that must be handled with machinery, called remote-handled waste; relaxation of the requirements for testing the contents of the waste containers; and a fourfold expansion of the above-ground storage space.

    SRIC and CCNS believe that NMED and other parties will agree with their objections and concerns so that a revised draft permit can be developed before proceeding to a public hearing.

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released a draft National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit which authorizes the discharge of wastewater from industrial facilities at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).

    EPA proposes to reissue the current permit with modifications. One such modification is that a large percentage of the discharge pipes are no longer subject to the wastewater limits and monitoring requirements of the previous permit.

    The permit will allow LANL to discharge wastewater containing radionuclides and other hazardous materials, such as high explosives, into the canyon systems. LANL will discharge the wastewater from locations about 6 to 10 miles from the Rio Grande. EPA is using state standards for watering livestock, light recreation, and the protection of a wildlife habitat. The canyons are home to the endangered black footed ferret, Mexican spotted owl, and bald eagle. The standards assume that the receiving water will never be used for human drinking water.

    EPA has scheduled a meeting because of public concerns expressed by Amigos Bravos, a Taos based river group, and CCNS. The informal public meeting will include a presentation about the permit and a question and answer session to help the public better understand the proposed permit. The meeting will be held on Monday, March 20 at 6 pm, in the Northern New Mexico College Administration Building room 101, in Espanola. The college is located at 921 Paseo de Onate.

    The public is also invited to submit comments on the proposed permit. Comments are due by March 31st. For more information regarding the public meeting and the draft permit please contact CCNS at (505) 986-1973.

    Rachel Conn, of Amigos Bravos, said, "this permit provides all the communities downstream from LANL with a valuable opportunity to come together and ensure that our drinking water is protected. We will hold LANL accountable, just like any other industry in New Mexico."

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