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Livermore Lab Seeks Hazardous and Explosives Waste Permit

By Robert Schwartz
From Tri-Valley CAREs� July 2008 newsletter, Citizen�s Watch

Public Hearing July 17, 2008
Public Comment Period ends August 18, 2008

The CA Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) recently issued a draft Permit Renewal and draft Negative Declaration for three hazardous and explosives waste facilities at Livermore Lab�s Site 300, an experimental, high explosives test site located in the eastern Altamont Hills near Tracy.

DTSC has the authority to regulate hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal at Site 300. The documents, prepared by DTSC, clear the way for the continued operation of the Site 300 waste facilities, which are used to store and treat hazardous and explosive waste products generated by the Livermore Lab Main Site in Livermore and Site 300.

If the permit is approved, the Building 883 Container Storage Area would be allowed to increase its hazardous liquid waste storage from 3,300 to 5,500 gallons. The treatment capacity for the Explosive Waste Treatment Facility (EWTF) Burn Pan would be reduced from 150 pounds per event or day to 100 pounds per event or day, and the overall Explosive Waste Storage Facility storage capacity for explosives waste would be reduced to 15,836 pounds.

Tri-Valley CAREs opposes the draft Permit Renewal and draft Negative Declaration on a number of grounds. First, because the permit will allow an increase in liquid storage capacity from 3,300 to 5,500 gallons�a 67% increase�it�s really a permit modification, rather than a permit renewal.

Also, Tri-Valley CAREs believes that it was not appropriate for DTSC to issue the draft Negative Declaration. A Negative Declaration is only justified if a project will not have a substantial impact on human health and the environment. Since the continued operation of these facilities at Site 300 is likely to have a number of environmental impacts, a Negative Declaration should not be issued.

Instead, we believe that DTSC must prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to study these impacts. An EIR is a detailed informational document that analyzes a project�s potential significant effects and identifies mitigation measures and reasonable alternatives to avoid those effects.

Explosives waste will be treated by �controlled burn/open detonation� at the Site 300 EWTF, which is the only facility of its kind in CA. This process normally results in the complete conversion of the waste into gases and carbon ash, thereby releasing any hazardous and toxic substances into the fragile San Joaquin Valley Air Basin.

Controlled burn/open detonation is so environmentally damaging that Livermore Lab has stated that it would not be possible to receive permitting approval for these activities at the Lab's Main Site �in today�s environment.� Tri-Valley CAREs believes that if this process is too harmful for the Main Site, it should not be done at Site 300.

To make matters worse, the Lab and DTSC failed to provide a complete list of the waste to be treated at the EWTF. However, we do know that dioxins and furans could be included. These substances are known to cause a variety of health effects, including cancer, changes in hormone levels, skin disease, reproductive issues, and suppressed immune system.

In addition, it is likely that continued operation of the EWTF will impact biological resources, including the San Joaquin Kit fox, Large-Flowered Fiddleneck, and CA tiger salamander, three federally-listed endangered species. A risk assessment prepared for the EWTF states that more soil sampling is necessary to study these impacts, yet DTSC has chosen to issue the draft Permit Renewal and draft Negative Declaration before this sampling has been performed. At a minimum, DTSC needs to err on the side of caution by studying these impacts before allowing the facilities to continue operating.

Another area that DTSC has overlooked concerns earthquake hazards. A recent study indicates a 63% chance for a magnitude 6.7 or greater seismic event in the Bay Area in the next 30 years. Such an event could severely damage or destroy the facilities, releasing hazardous and explosives wastes into the environment. These potential impacts need to be studied, which DTSC has not done.

Finally, DTSC ignored the possibility that a mishap�whether the result of accident, oversight, mechanical failure, or failure to comply with applicable regulations�will result in substantial impacts to the environment. Given Livermore Lab�s long history of such mishaps, an incident of this nature is, unfortunately, to expected.

On July 17, DTSC will hold a public meeting and hearing at the Tracy Sports Complex, 955 Crossroads Dr., beginning at 6:30 PM. Tri-Valley CAREs� staff attorney, Rob Schwartz, will be there with information to share with the community. We hope to see you.

A sample letter is posted on our website. Please download it, add any comments you wish, and sign and mail it to the address provided. Written comments are due by August 18, 2008.

Tri-Valley CAREs * 2582 Old First Street * Livermore, CA 94551 * Phone (925) 443-7148 * Fax (925) 443-0177

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