Makhijani to Testify at Triennial Review on December 10

December 4, 2009

Dr. Arjun Makhijani will testify at the Triennial Review of New Mexico's Water Quality Standards on Thursday, December 10th about the need to strengthen the proposed standards for radionuclides in the Rio Grande below Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The Triennial Review hearing will be conducted by the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission in Room 308 of the State Capitol in Santa Fe beginning on Tuesday, December 8th.

Dr. Makhijani is President of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, based in Takoma Park, Maryland. He is a recognized authority on radiation and its impacts to human health. He will be testifying for Amigos Bravos, a Taos-based river conservation organization.

The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) is proposing to designate the Rio Grande below LANL as a public water supply because the City of Santa Fe and Santa Fe County plan to divert San Juan-Chama water at the Buckman Direct Diversion Project to supplement the drinking water supply.

The Environment Department also is proposing to set standards for plutonium, americium, strontium, cesium and tritium for this stretch of the river. The proposed standards are based on an analysis of risk of one person in 100,000 dying of cancer from drinking two quarts of water per day for a lifetime of 70 years. The drinking water would contain the radionuclide contaminant of concern at a level below where the regulatory agencies say there no public health effects.

Dr. Makhijani will testify that the radionuclide standards must be more protective for the public water supply. He proposes to increase the number of people in the possibly impacted group tenfold. Other states have used the more protective standard, including Colorado.

In Colorado, the standards were set to address contamination of two drinking water reservoirs from waters flowing out of the Rocky Flats Plant, a former Department of Energy facility that manufactured plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons. As part of the cleanup agreement with the State of Colorado, the cancer risk of 1 in 1,000,000 was used to establish the more protective radionuclide standards. The Colorado standard sets a good precedent for New Mexico because LANL manufactured plutonium triggers both before and after the Rocky Flats Plant existed and similar radionuclides have been found in the canyons that flow into the Rio Grande.

Dr. Makhijani asks in his written testimony, "In view of the runoff of the radionuclides in question at much higher levels from canyons associated with LANL [than at the Rocky Flats Plant], why have the State of New Mexico and LANL not yet negotiated an agreement that would protect all New Mexico public water supplies downstream of LANL to ambient levels of man-made radionuclides associated with LANL?"

Public comment will be heard during the hearing after lunch and on Wednesday, December 9 beginning at 6:30 pm at the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources office located at 1220 South St. Francis Drive, in Santa Fe.

For more information, please visit

For more information about the NMED proposal and to see the filings of the various parties, go to the New Mexico Environment Department Surface Water Quality Bureau webpage at



The Triennial Hearing of New Mexico's water quality standards begins on Tuesday, December 8, 2009 at the State Capitol in Santa Fe. See Amigos Bravos is leading the effort to protect New Mexico's waters. Attached are talking points in order to help you prepare your oral or written comment.

Amigos Bravos will be presenting their case on Thursday, December 10th. Dr. Arjun Makhijani will be testifying for Amigos Bravos about the need for more protective standards for radionuclides in the stretch of the Rio Grande that flows adjacent to LANL.

Please attend the hearing and give your testimony either after lunch Tuesday through Friday, December 8 through 11, in Room 308 of the State Capitol or on Wednesday, December 9 at 6:30 pm at the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources office, located at 1220 South St. Francis Drive.

Written comments may be submitted to:

Joyce Medina, Administrator
Water Quality Control Commission
1190 St. Francis Dr., PO Box 5469
Santa Fe, NM 87502
Tel: (505) 827-2425
Fax: (505) 827-2836

Thank you for taking part in this important issue! Protection of our water is essential!

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