Reading Room

For immediate release: March 7, 2007

Action Halts Huge Bomb Blasts at Livermore Lab Site 300

Community Members, Environmentalists Hail Air District Decision to Revoke Permits Following Citizen's Challenge

for more information, contact:
Loulena Miles, Staff Attorney, Tri-Valley CAREs, 925-443-7148
Trent Orr, Counsel to Earthjustice, 415-665-2185
Bob Sarvey, Business Owner, Sarvey Shoes, 209-830-0349

TRACY: In a major victory for local activists, permits that would have allowed Livermore Lab to increase its open air explosions annually by 8-fold have been cancelled by the San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District. Citizens and groups challenging the permit received the news by phone from the air district; no formal statement has yet been released.

Site 300, Livermore Lab's high explosive testing range, was granted permits in November 2006 to detonate up to 8,000 pounds of high explosives annually and 350 pounds daily. These explosions would also involve unknown quantities of toxic and radioactive material including Uranium 238. The Lab's permit application was silent about the exact contents of the explosions.

Site 300 covers 11 square miles, and is located on Corral Hollow Road, just off I-580 in the Altamont Hills between Livermore and Tracy. Local businesses and community members were alarmed and demanded that the air district conduct public hearings, disclose more information about the blasts, and look carefully at the health and environmental impacts that could result from the explosions.

Tracy business owner Bob Sarvey formally appealed the permits and a hearing was scheduled for today in Modesto. The district notified the parties yesterday afternoon that the Lab would have to reapply if it wanted to obtain permits for these large explosions.

"The big winner today is the environment in and around Site 300," declared Tri-Valley CAREs' Staff Attorney, Loulena Miles. "If these huge explosions had been allowed to go forward, the hills, nearby waterways, the workers and the surrounding community would have all been put at risk. We adamantly argued that additional environmental review was required before any permit could be considered. I am gratified that the air district heeded our plea."

Miles continued, "Community opposition truly made the difference in getting these permits cancelled. And, continued vigilance is critical to ensure that Livermore Lab does not return to the air board with a second permit application that is similarly incomplete. We will be watching."

"I filed the appeal because I could see the Livermore Lab wanted to fast track these permits without informing the community about the risks involved in the project," said Bob Sarvey, a long-time Tracy

resident and business owner. "I certainly feel safer not living under a cloud of radioactive materials exploded at Site 300." Sarvey and his family live on Corral Hollow Road, where past blasts from Site 300 have blown out windows in their home.

The permits that were revoked today mark the first attempts by Livermore Lab to obtain county permission for open-air detonations at Site 300. The Air Pollution Control District has only been in existence for 15 years. During this time, Site 300 open-air explosions were conducted without permits because the blasts were at a lesser volume and yield. Livermore Lab is also applying to the Calif. State Dept. of Toxics to increase Site 300's waste storage from 3,300 gallons to 5,500 gallons.

"It was astounding that the Air Pollution Control District issued permits to detonate explosives involving radioactive materials outdoors on a hazardous waste site, a mile from a planned 5,500-unit residential area, without the public review required by the California Environmental Quality Act," said Trent Orr, a lawyer with Earthjustice, a national nonprofit that, along with Tri-Valley CAREs, provided written arguments to buttress the challenge.

Orr continued, "We're pleased to learn that the District has withdrawn these permits and look forward to the required in-depth review of this dangerous proposal, which should lead to its rejection as utterly incompatible with human health and the surrounding natural environment."

Site 300 is already on the federal Environmental Protection Agency's 'Superfund' list of most contaminated locations in the country. Livermore Lab is presently cleaning up extensive contamination throughout the site, including a two-mile plume of heavily contaminated groundwater containing radioactive and toxic debris from past operations.

The residential population in the area surrounding Tracy is growing dramatically. A 5,500 housing development called Tracy Hills is planned for one mile outside of the fence line. The seven million people in the San Francisco Bay Area could be affected by wind or water-borne contamination from the blasts.

Site 300 is also on Homeland Security's 'short list' of sites being considered to host a massive bio-lab, known as the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility, where bioweapon agents will be studied on animals in a maximum containment laboratory the size of 5 Wal-Mart stores. Homeland Security will decide whether to study the Tracy site as one of 'finalist' candidates for the massive bio-lab in the coming months.

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