Public Hearing for Groundwater Discharge Permit at WIPP Begins Tuesday, September 7th

Beginning at noon on Tuesday, September 7th, the New Mexico Environment Department will hold a virtual public hearing for a groundwater discharge permit that includes the construction and use of a Salt Cell 5 and Salt Storage Pond 5, which are integral to the expansion of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).  Allowing construction and use of those two new surface facilities would directly support the proposed plans of the Department of Energy (DOE) to excavate the Shaft 5 and associated underground drifts. The public overwhelmingly opposes permitting the “5’s” – the proposed Shaft 5, the Salt Cell 5, and the Salt Storage Pond 5.

Breaking News:  On September 2, 2021, the Environment Department, Ground Water Quality Bureau, posted its September 29 – 30, 2020 Inspection Report at the WIPP site.  On p. 2 of 8, the public learns – despite the information released to the public to prepare for the public hearing – that the Salt Cell 5 and Salt Storage Pond 5 have been constructed!!!



More Breaking News:  On September 2, 2021, the public also learns that Environment Department staff, “Inspected the newly constructed Salt Cell 5 and Salt Storage Pond 5. Salt Cell 5 will have to be recompacted due to the extended period between construction and it being utilized. Fencing and signage around Salt Storage Pond 5 still need to be installed.”



Meeting Information:


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+1 408 638 0968 US (San Jose)

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Meeting ID: 971 5010 4794

Passcode: 169741

For Spanish Interpretation (para interpretacion en Espanol):

Ready Access Number (numero de acceso listo): 800-747-5150
Secondary Ready Access Number (numero de acceso listo #2) :  +1 913-904-9381
Access Code (codigo acceso): 3453860

Location Zoom Meeting ID: 971 5010 4794
Passcode: 169741

CCNS now asks:  Where did DOE put the overburden from the first 116 feet from digging Shaft 5? 


The Stop Forever WIPP Coalition, formed to oppose WIPP expansion, has prepared a sample public comment letter you can use to oppose the inclusion of Salt Cell 5 and Salt Storage Pond 5 in the groundwater discharge permit.  It is available at , with a one-click comment option.  Please include your personal concerns.  The comment letter is also available on CCNS’s webpage at

If Shaft 5 excavation were approved, it would facilitate DOE’s plans to double the size of WIPP, the underground mine for the disposal of plutonium-contaminated waste from nuclear weapons production.  During the public hearing in May, CCNS, Southwest Research and Information Center, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Citizen Action New Mexico, and individual Deborah Reade opposed Shaft 5.  As of September 3rd, no decision on Shaft 5 has been made.

Excavation of Shaft 5 would require a place to store the salt mined from a 30-foot diameter hole down into the waste facility 2,150 feet below ground.  The salt would be stored in a new Salt Cell 5.  Storm water runoff from the Cell would be collected in a new Salt Storage Pond 5, which would have a capacity of 1.3 million gallons.

On Tuesday, at the virtual public hearing on zoom, CCNS and Southwest Research and Information Center will oppose the permitting of Salt Cell 5 and Salt Storage Pond 5.

Click link to go to the Zoom meeting:

CCNS also will argue that the Environment Department’s public notification process was defective and does not meet the basic regulatory requirements.

Further, CCNS discovered in the administrative record that key monitoring equipment, including pressure gages and flow meters, have been out of service for 2 ½ years or more.  In another case, a control panel alarm does not light up and has not been repaired making it difficult to identify the danger.  DP-831 Monitoring Rpt 6-24 to 6-30-19

This reminds us that negligent maintenance caused the salt truck fire underground at WIPP in 2014.  and


Did You Know?  We are Podcasting! 


  1. CCNS could really use your financial support right now as we prepare testimony to oppose the “5’s,” Shaft 5, Salt Cell 5 and Salt Storage Pond 5 at WIPP during the Sept. 7th DP-831 groundwater discharge permit public hearing. It is a laborious technical process.  Your tax-deductible donation would be greatly appreciated!  Please go to to make your greatly needed contribution or mail it to:  CCNS, P. O. Box 31147, Santa Fe, NM  87594-1147.  Thank you!



  1. Monday, October 4th: Public comments are due to NM Environment Department about the proposed construction and use of hazardous waste disposal Units 11 and 12.  This is DOE’s plan to “replace” the panels that were contaminated due to years of mismanagement (also known as “DOE’s mismanagement panels”).  For more information see and   CCNS will prepare talking points and sample public comments you can use.  Stay tuned!



  1. Mon. Sept. 20 – Virtual NM Interim Legislative Radioactive & Hazardous Materials Committee meeting in Gallup, NM. More information about the agenda and invited presenters will be posted here prior to the meeting:  Tina Cordova, of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, will present about the proposed amendments to the federal Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA).



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