July 28 LANL Draft Hazardous Waste Permit Public Meeting

July 17, 2009

The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) intends to issue a hazardous waste permit to Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to store and treat hazardous waste and to close hazardous waste disposal units in accordance with the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act. NMED has scheduled a public meeting for Tuesday, July 28 at the Ohkay Casino Conference Center, which is located two miles north of Espanola on Highway 68.

It is anticipated that the final permit will be issued in 2010 and will govern hazardous waste operations at the permitted units until 2020. The permit covers 26 hazardous waste management units at Technical Areas 3, 16, 50, 54 and 55. These are facilities for burning hazardous waste in the open air, nuclear weapons manufacturing and waste storage. Most of the units are located at Technical Area 54 and include units that are commonly known as Areas G, H and L.

Marian Naranjo, Executive Director of Honor Our Pueblo Existence, is a community organizer in the Espanola Valley. She said, "I encourage folks within the Valley to take the time to attend this public meeting to become familiar with not only the issues, but the permitting process. Our voices are vital in making the changes necessary for now and into the future."

Two meetings will be held, one from 3 to 5 and the other from 7 to 9 pm.

There are basic requirements that apply to the permitted units. These include determining whether there are any seismic faults within 200 feet of the unit; providing a plan for cleanup and closure of the units; and providing financial documentation so that when it is time to close a unit, that funding will be available to ensure the unit is thoroughly cleaned.

The draft permit was originally released for public comment in August 2007. CCNS and other non-governmental organizations, along with the Department of Energy (DOE) and LANL, made comments and requested a hearing. The state regulations allow for the Environment Department to call the parties together to determine whether the issues may be resolved. As a result, the parties participated in 40 days of negotiations between August 2008 and June 2009. Now the revised draft permit is out for a 60-day public comment period, which ends on September 4, 2009.

Even with 40 days of negotiations, some issues remain outstanding. These include the burning of up to 12,500 pounds of high explosives and other hazardous materials annually in the open air as a waste disposal method.

Sheri Kotowski, the Lead Organizer with the Embudo Valley Environmental Monitoring Group and one of the parties to the negotiations, said, "In 2005, the Environment Department banned the use of backyard burn barrels because of toxic emissions. It is absurd that LANL is allowed to burn hazardous waste in the open air. Surrounding communities are tired of breathing LANL's toxic waste. We must demand that NMED required confined burn facilities for these operations at LANL."

The permit can be viewed at the NMED website at www.nmenv.state.nm.us/HWB/lanlperm.html under LANL draft permit.

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