Reading Room

Tuesday, April 25, 2006  
Council cleanup

By: Phillip Hayworth
Published In: Tracy Press

Tracy?s City Council decided Tuesday to write a letter asking the Department of Energy to spend millions to excavate and remove radioactive waste from pits at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory?s Site 300 where bombs are tested.

?Pit 7? is the general term for four contaminated, unlined waste pits just 8 miles from Tracy city limits that the DOE used from 1958 through 1988 as a dump for tritium, uranium and other toxic substances.

Water has leached through the pits, contaminating groundwater. A toxic plume was discovered slowly moving toward Tracy.

?The City Council decided to go my way and write a letter to the DOE to have them remove everything,? said Bob Sarvey, Tracy businessman and member of Tri-Valley CAREs, a Livermore-based environmental advocacy group.

He?s been advocating for excavation and removal of the tritium and uranium in the pits for years now, he said. The method could cost as much as $77 million.

But DOE and Lab officials wanted to spend $15 million to pump, treat and reinject groundwater and build diversion trenches to capture rainwater runoff.

Uranium has a long half-life ? the period of time it takes half of a radioactive substance to decay ? and no one knows for sure how much or exactly when the uranium was dumped in the pits. Tritium has a much shorter half-life, but there is no known treatment for tritium exposure, said DOE officials. However, officials say all tritium would have dissipated before it got close to enough to threaten Tracy water supplies.

But the city doesn?t want to take any chances and will request that everything be removed.

City staff, meanwhile, remained ?neutral? about which plan was best.

?We felt there was not one superior cleanup plan as it relates to potential groundwater contamination? for Tracy, said Department of Public Works Director Patrick Wiemiller.

Meanwhile, the period for public comment on the best way to clean up Pit 7 has been extended to May 5.

To submit testimony, write to Claire Holtzapple, Site 300 Remedial Project Manager, DOE Livermore Site Office, Environmental Stewardship Division, P.O. Box 808, L-574, Livermore 94550.

? To reach reporter Phil Hayworth, call 830-4221 or e-mail

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