Final Days for NMED Hazardous Waste Permit Hearing for LANL: May 5, 6 and 7 in Santa Fe

April 30, 2010

The public hearing for the New Mexico Environment Department draft hazardous waste permit for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) returns to Santa Fe for its final days starting Wednesday, May 5 at 9 am at the Courtyard by Marriott, 3347 Cerrillos Road. The 10-year permit allows LANL to handle ¼ million pounds of hazardous waste each year.

For the first time in over 21 years the public has the opportunity to provide formal comments about the hazardous waste permit for LANL. Public comment will be accepted only until the end of the hearing, which may be Friday, May 7.

The non-governmental organizations participating in the hearing requested that it be held in impacted communities, to which the Environment Department and LANL agreed, by scheduling days in Ohkay Owingeh, Pojoaque, Los Alamos, Albuquerque and Santa Fe. The public has provided comments at each hearing, but more are needed.

The issues are many and include the Environment Department's proposed denial of LANL's application to use open-air burning of hazardous waste as a waste disposal method; the reluctance to enhance public participation requirements; and the inadequate groundwater monitoring network below the waste dumps at Areas G, H and L at Technical Area 54.

LANL has been on notice since the last public hearing about the hazardous waste permit 21 years ago that the public does not want our air used for disposal of hazardous waste. CCNS has stated that if LANL must burn hazardous waste, there are alternatives, including confined burn facilities designed to capture the emissions.

Since the Consent Order was signed in 2005, which addresses cleanup at LANL, there have been few opportunities for meaningful public participation. As an act of restorative justice and in order to meet the needs of both urban and rural communities and future generations, the final permit must require LANL to establish a physical Information Repository in the Española Valley. It will provide opportunities to learn about hazardous waste operations and how to make informed public comments about the cleanup.

Neither the Environment Department nor LANL is protecting the groundwater beneath LANL. For more than a decade, LANL has investigated the groundwater below the legacy waste dumps at Technical Area 54. Decisions about whether to excavate or leave the waste in place are due soon and execution is supposed to be completed by December 31, 2015. Currently large contaminant plumes are allowed to migrate without detection for miles to the LANL site boundary or a drinking water well.

To learn more about these issues, to obtain electronic comment letters, and to see the scheduled times for public comment, please visit

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