About Air and Water

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sierra Club Challenges Proposed Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility - Says Waste Control Specialists’ Application Failed to Meet Legal Requirements

By Lone Star Chapter Sierra Club, Nov. 28, 2007

The Sierra Club is challenging a radioactive waste disposal facility proposed for Andrews County in West Texas.

The environmental group says that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) should not have even prepared a draft license for the disposal of so-called radioactive “byproduct materials” because the application for the license by Waste Control Specialists (WCS) failed to meet the basic requirements of the state law governing these materials.

The Sierra Club said TCEQ should withdraw the draft license and return the application to WCS. If TCEQ refuses to do so, then the Sierra Club is requesting a contested case proceeding on the draft license on behalf of Club members living in Eunice, New Mexico just across the Texas-New Mexico border from the proposed facility.

Deficiencies in the Application

“The Environmental Analysis of the proposed waste dump prepared by TCEQ itself shows that WCS failed to meet the requirements of state law in its application for the facility,” noted Texas Sierra Club state director Ken Kramer.
“WCS failed to conduct a routine year-long monitoring program,
failed to adequately characterize the geology and hydrology of the proposed site,
failed to account for high-wind events and worst-case rain scenarios,
and ignored the interaction of the proposed radioactive waste operations with the existing hazardous waste operations at the WCS facility.”

“Clearly, the agency clearly should withdraw the draft license and force the applicant to reapply. If TCEQ does not do so, then the agency needs to grant our request for a contested case proceeding on the license.”

Concerns of Area Residents
Eleven residents or families in Eunice, New Mexico – just four miles west of the WCS disposal site and home to about 2500 people – as individuals also have asked TCEQ for a public meeting and a contested case proceeding on the matter if TCEQ does not withdraw the draft license.

The Eunice residents are concerned that the more than one million cubic yards of uranium and thorium byproduct waste that might be buried at the disposal site would impact their health and livelihoods.

Their concerns stem from the potential for groundwater contamination, traffic accidents involving trucks carrying radioactive materials, and wind-blown dispersal of radioactive dust and liquids, among other issues.

These are also some of the concerns noted by the Sierra Club in its request for a contested case proceeding. In its comments to TCEQ the Sierra Club cites two Eunice residents who are Club members - a caregiver living on the eastern edge of Eunice and a local business owner, who owns a flower shop, feed store, and 15 acres of alfalfa fields in the region.

“These individuals work, travel and make their livelihoods from the local groundwater, roads and resources of the area,” Kramer noted. “The fact that TCEQ prepared a draft license based on a WCS application that lacks basic information on and/or includes contradictions about the porosity, fissures, and saturation levels of the soils in which the radioactive waste will be dumped is unacceptable.”

“We live here and the trucks and railcars will be going literally by our houses,” noted Eunice business owner and Sierra Club member Rose Gardner. “I don’t want to be taking my flower boxes to the local landfill next to WCS and face the prospect of escaped radon gas infecting my lungs or uranium tailing waste leaching into my water well for my alfalfa.”

A copy of Sierra Club’s comments on the draft license prepared by TCEQ may be found on the Club’s Lone Star Chapter website .

A copy of the draft license (R05807) may be found on the TCEQ website .

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