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Key Issues to consider:
Class 3 Permit Modification for the Mixed Waste Landfill


What is happening now?

The New Mexico Environmental Department (NMED) will be taking comments from members of the public regarding a hazardous waste "Class 3 Permit Modification" proposed by Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) for the Mixed Waste Landfill. The Permit Modification is a part of the regulatory process in determining a remedy for the Mixed Waste Landfill. The report conducted by SNL which examines options for the landfill is called a Corrective Measures Study (CMS).

What is SNL/DOE's proposed plan for the Mixed Waste Landfill?

The remedy for the Mixed Waste Landfill selected by SNL and the Department of Energy (DOE) is to cover the landfill with 3 ft. of dirt and implement a "keep people out" plan. The landfill will be left where its at and will not cleaned up to the highest standard (residential land use). Thus, the area on top of and surrounding the landfill will be proposed for industrial land use due to an unacceptable risk of cancer.

The good news.

The good news is that the NMED has not yet approved SNL's plan for the Mixed Waste Landfill, and cannot approve it until:

  1. After the end of the public comment period on the Class 3 Permit Modification - DEADLINE MARCH 30, 2004; and

  2. After NMED drafts it own proposed Permit Modification which could be significantly different than SNL/DOE's proposed plan. Comments from the public will be accepted on both Permit Modifications with a public meeting scheduled for late summer 2004 where both technical experts and members of the public can again have their comments recorded as a part of the public record. These comments will help the NMED make its final decision for the waste site.

Submit your comments!

BEFORE MARCH 30, 2004, IT IS IMPORTANT for concerned citizens to write or call NMED to submit their comments on the Class 3 Draft Permit Modification for the Mixed Waste Landfill. We are urging members of the public to request that: 1) the NMED hold a public hearing for the Mixed Waste Landfill; and 2) recommend that NMED not approve the SNL proposed Class 3 Permit Modification because of a number of deficiencies in the CMS conducted by SNL.

What's wrong with the CMS?

There are many deficiencies in the CMS that have been identified by Citizen Action. Thus far they include:

  • The CMS fails to identify the volume and distribution of all radioactive and hazardous chemicals found in the Mixed Waste Landfill. Instead, the CMS relies on an incomplete review of existing data and generalized states regarding types of radioactive or hazardous constituents rather than specific amounts of specific constituents.

  • The CMS fails to assess risks based on the KNOWN INVENTORY of radioactive and hazardous materials in the Mixed Waste Landfill. The CMS only assesses the risk of 2 contaminants that have been found migrating from the landfill: tritium and cadmium. The complete inventory of he landfill includes over 40 types of radioactive materials and their respective decay products, chemicals, solvents, heavy metals, and new compounds that may have been formed as a result of the mixing of radioactive materials and chemical waste.

  • The CMS fails to provide a detailed technical analysis of the risks associated with the deterioration of waste containers, and the possible mixing of radioactive and chemical hazards for SNL/SNL's preferred remediation scenario where waste is left untreated in the ground and covered by a soil cap.

  • The CMS fails to provide an independent cost analysis from an outside contractor for estimation of remedial action costs, including excavation and re-disposal alternatives. The current cost analysis for excavation of the landfill (over $1 billion) was conducted in-house by SNL and supports SNL/DOE's proposed plan for the landfill. The preferred alternative (covering the landfill with dirt, surrounding it with signs and fences, and restricting it for industrial land use) is based on the assumption that excavation is too costly and presents too great a risk to workers.

  • The CMS fails to recommend a clean-up plan effective enough to allow unrestricted land use of the Mixed Waste Landfill after clean-up at any time in the future.

Recommendations for the CMS.

Citizen Action recommends that members of the public request that NMED require a new and comprehensive CMS that includes:

  • A comprehensive risk assessment for the Mixed Waste Landfill that considers the potential risks of ALL of the waste buried in the landfill - not just the very limited risks from contaminants found migrating from the landfill and detected by monitoring efforts.

  • The identification and full evaluation of reasonable alternatives for guaranteed relocation of the waste following installation of a temporary cap and decay of the radionuclides of concern. This particular proposed remedy, proposed by the WERC Independent Peer Review of the Corrective Measures Study as their preference for the landfill, has neither been acknowledged nor addressed by SNL/DOE as an option for the waste buried at the Mixed Waste Landfill.

  • An enforceable financial mechanism to guarantee implementation of the long-term monitoring and clean up of the Mixed Waste Landfill. This request has been made to DOE by former Albuquerque Mayor Jim Baca; former New Mexico State Land Commissioner Ray Powell; members of the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Ground Water Protection Advisory Board; members of the WERC Independent Review team; the National Academy of Sciences; and Citizen Action and its coalition members.

  • A request that SNL/DOE conduct an independent cost analysis of clean up of the Mixed Waste Landfill and not one based on a "preferred alternative" for the landfill conducted in-house at SNL.

Who do I send my comments to?

Send your comments on SNL/DOE's proposed plan for the Mixed Waste Landfill before March 30, 2004 to:

Mr. John Kieling
New Mexico Environment Department
Hazardous Waste Bureau
Permits Management Program
2905 Rodeo Park Road East, Bldg. 1
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
(505) 428-2535
or e-mail at: John_Kieling@nmenv.state.nm.us

Where can I read about the CMS for the Mixed Waste Landfill?

To review the CMS document in its entirety go to: http://www.nmenv.state.nm.us/HWB/snlperm.html and click on CMS Report.

Citizen Action will be submitting technical comments on SNL/DOE's proposed plan for the Mixed Waste Landfill before the March 30th deadline. These comments will be based on a number of independent studies conducted on the landfill and from documents received under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). We will be happy to send you a copy of our technical comments by e-mailing: sdayton@swcp.com. These comments are also posted on the Citizen Action under the Key Issues/Class 3 Permit Mod icon at: www.radfreenm.org.

Comments re: the Class 3 Draft Permit Modification for the Mixed Waste Landill

Covering Up 30 Years of Radioactive and Hazardous Waste: Mixed Waste Landfill (PDF, 307KB)

Analysis and Recommendations Mixed Waste Landfill Corrective Measure Study Final Report U.S. Department of Energy and Sandia National Laboratories (PDF, 300KB)

Independent Evaluation of the Corrective Measures Study, Mixed Waste Landfill, Sandia National Laboratories. (PDF, 2.023MB)