Reading Room

Fox to Guard Chicken Coop, Again?

from Tri-Valley CAREs' May 1998 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

by Stephanie Ericson

The Livermore Lab says it merely wanted to jump-start additional plutonium sampling in the Livermore community. But community representatives say that the Lab is trying to jump ahead to control what sampling should be done and how.

Stephanie Ericson is Tri-Valley CAREs' representative to an advisory panel, called a "Site Team," to public health agencies currently investigating the health impacts of the Livermore Lab on the community. There is concern that the Lab has inappropriately excluded the Site Team's community members, stakeholders, and the CA Dept. of Health Services (CDHS) from participating in the development of the plan.

A public meeting was held in Livermore just over two months ago to discuss a draft report by public health agencies on plutonium-contaminated soil in Big Trees Park along with other plutonium pollution problems in the community.

The CDHS and the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) recommended additional sampling as well as an investigation into the distribution of plutonium-contaminated sludge to the residents as a soil amendment in the late 1960s and early 1970s. At that meeting, attendees from the public made clear their support for follow-up.

The Lab then quickly put together its own sampling plan. So, while the community representatives on the Site Team strongly agree with the health report's recommendations for follow-up, they, and others, object to the polluter taking the lead role in deciding where and how to sample. For public health activities to be credible to the community, they cannot be directed by the Lab because it is the self-acknowledged institution responsible for the contamination.

The Lab says its proposed sampling plan, announced April 14, was merely to get the ball rolling to respond to concerns raised by many of the ninety or so people attending the February public meeting. But the Lab originally announced that public comment on the plan, which has not been widely circulated, would close on May 9, before the next public meeting of the Site Team on May 13. Due to the efforts of Tri-Valley CAREs and others, the public comment deadline has since been extended to May 29. (See enclosed fact sheet for more info.)

Send comments to: Paul Charp, E-56
1600 Clifton Rd., NE
Atlanta, GA 30333