Buckman Independent Peer Review Comment Period Extended to November 22

November 19, 2010

The Board of the Buckman Direct Diversion Project granted a one-week extension of time to provide public comments about the Independent Peer Review preliminary draft report. The report looks at the safety of the water to be diverted from the Rio Grande into the drinking water system for Santa Fe proper, Santa Fe County, and Las Campanas.

ChemRisk, the company conducting the independent peer review, concluded in the October draft report that there is no health risk to Santa Fe-area residents drinking Buckman Project tap water. CCNS and others have raised a number of concerns about the conclusions, as well as the data and analyses supporting those conclusions. CCNS, in collaboration with Robert H. Gilkeson, registered geologist and whistleblower on groundwater issues at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), found direct contradictions between what was stated in the more public oriented documents and the over 300-page preliminary draft report. Both the four-page Community Summary and the 27-page Executive Summary of the report concluded that "LANL contributes very little, if any, chemicals and radionuclides to the Rio Grande during normal river flow conditions." But ChemRisk did not look at the conditions of most concern: when water from storms, monsoons, and melting snow carry LANL contamination through the canyons to the Rio Grande. Specifically, when these flows come through Los Alamos Canyon to reach the Rio Grande from the west about three miles upriver from the Buckman diversion site located to the east.

As recently as April, LANL contaminants were found in melting snow at the Los Alamos Canyon monitoring station closest to the Rio Grande, which indicates that contaminant migration is still occurring. The contaminants include plutonium, PCBs, and dioxins. It is unknown whether these findings were included because the authors did not provide a listing of the data used in the analyses.

Further, ChemRisk did not use the most protective water standards for total chromium, which includes the trivalent and hexavalent forms. The Environmental Protection Agency sets a standard of 100 micrograms per liter of water; whereas the State of New Mexico standard is more protective at 50 micrograms per liter. Given the number of uncertainties associated with the data, it is unknown if the use of the incorrect standard would have an impact on the conclusions.

The deadline for public comments on the ChemRisk preliminary draft report is Monday, November 22. Please send your comments by email to Matthew H. Le at MLe@chemrisk.com.

A final public meeting with ChemRisk will be held at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center on Tuesday, December 7 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. More information is available at www.bddproject.org and www.chemrisk.com .

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