Reading Room

Friday, July 13, 2007  
HIS VOICE: Tri-Valley CAREs' legal intern, Michael Stanker

By: Michael Stanker
Published In: Tracy Press

Guest editorial

The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday rejected Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory?s bid to house a bio-warfare agent research facility at Site 300, 6 miles from Tracy. The facility, which will be the size of five Wal-Marts, would have housed some of the world?s most lethal pathogens.

The main reason why Site 300 was not selected, despite the lab?s intense lobbying, was because the community vehemently opposed the facility. Residents spoke loudly and clearly opposing the dangerous facility. They wrote letters, made phone calls, signed petitions and sent e-mails to the Department of Homeland Security. The Tracy City Council also wrote a letter opposing the facility. As a result, the federal government was forced to listen.

However, Tracy is not out of the woods yet, as they say, because dangerous plans for new bomb blasts are still pending for Site 300. Community opposition can stop this as well.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has re-applied for permits from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to increase open-air explosive testing at Site 300 by 8 times per year. (The original application was canceled after the lab failed to include key data in its application, such as the types and amounts of radioactive and toxic emissions from the explosions.) The new application confirmed the community?s worst fears that these blasts will possibly release tons of aerosolized depleted uranium and other toxic substances into the air without any control technology to filter out particles that can travel with the wind.

Under the proposed plan, there will be about 60 toxic and radioactive substances released as a result of open-air explosions. The lab will also explode up to 4,500 pounds of depleted uranium annually. Depleted uranium creates a triple health threat as a heavy metal, as a hazardous chemical catalyst and as a radioactive substance. The health threats from these dangers range from cancer, to birth defects, to heart problems, to DNA damage.

These depleted uranium explosions will occur without any control technologies to reduce airborne emissions. As a result, when the wind blows toward Tracy, it could carry some depleted uranium to residents. Also, what the air doesn?t carry away will likely find its way into the ground water. Furthermore, residential development continues to move closer and closer to the Site 300 boundary. More than 5,000 family homes are planned not far from the fence line of Site 300.

A critical meeting is taking place soon and community presence is needed. It will be at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the City Council chambers at Tracy City Hall, 333 Civic Center Plaza. At this meeting, the air pollution regulators will provide information about these tests and the permit approval process. I encourage everybody from the community to attend and give input about the lab?s attempt to increase open air explosive testing. Not only will an eightfold increase in explosive testing result in further contamination to the site, it may also negatively impact the surrounding people and environment.

Only by demanding that the air district carefully consider the environmental harm the lab?s plan will surely have can we stop increased weapon?s testing and pollution in our community. The lab wants to resume these harmful tests, so please go to the hearing Wednesday and voice concern over the proposed eightfold increase in explosive testing.

Consider this: Site 300, the lab?s explosive test range off Corral Hollow Road, already contains enough toxic and radioactive waste from past bomb blasts to qualify for federal Environmental Protection Agency?s Superfund list of most contaminated sites in the nation. Although modest cleanup efforts are under consideration, the toxic and radioactive pollution has contaminated the ground water and is moving toward the Central Valley at a rate of up to 100 feet per year. We need to clean up past contamination and not create new hazards.

Michael Stanker is a law student at Santa Clara University. The Livermore native is a legal intern with Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment, a watchdog group of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

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