Jan 29, 2008

Española Basin as a sole source drinking water aquifer

There has been some clarification of the Environmental Protection Agency's recent designation of the Española Basin as a sole source drinking water aquifer. Staci Matlock of the New Mexican writes about this in her article, EPA designation could help protect aquifer.
The designation gives the EPA authority to review and modify any projects funded by federal financial aid such as loans or grants, proposed over the aquifer. "What we're looking for is anything that might contaminate the aquifer," said Michael Bechdol, an EPA environmental scientist.

Under the designation, the EPA cannot review projects funded through congressional appropriations or contracts, which is the case for much of the work at Los Alamos National Laboratory.


Eric said...

So, if you get a contract from the government, the state, a university or a company or if you are the government, you can destroy the environment, but if you get a grant you can't.

If you convert the federal grant to a contract, you now can pollute the environment.

Is this what the clarification says?

Just curious.

Pinky and The Brain said...

Ask Michael.

Michael Bechdol
Ground Water/UIC Section (6WQ-SG)
EPA Region 6
1445 Ross Avenue
Dallas, Texas 75202
(214) 665-7133

Anonymous said...


It just means the Congress EXCEPTED
the programs it mandates from EPA review.

Congress excepts itself from having
to obey laws all the time.

So much for the ill-considered fantasies
of the anti-nukes that this would mean
the demise of the Lab's programs and
pit production.

Anonymous said...

It's funny how everyone who wants safe water is anti-nuke.

Anonymous said...

The best story on this topic I know involved the decision by Bush (upholding a regulation proposed by EPA under Clinton) to lower the standard for Arsenic in drinking water from 50 to 10 ppb. Turns out, this has a huge impact in New Mexico. For example, Albuquerque's supply is at about 20 ppb As.

Anyway, a UNM study of the total impacts was done of this regulation. Water treatment to bring levels to below 10 ppb is expensive. Total 50-year cost for the ABQ project runs in the billions (multiple with a B).

The UNM study used epidemilogical methods to estimate lives saved and costs. Over 50 years, it was estimated that 1.7 cancers deaths would be saved in total (over the entire 50 years) by lowering the As levels to 10 ppb. They also estimated about 3 people would be killed in traffic accidents resulting from increased road usage and transport of chemicals to the treatment plant. On net, this project kills one extra person in 50 years and you pay several billion for the privledge.

True cost/benefit and risk analysis is missing so-much in our society, particularly when it comes to heated issues and public policy. The issue of perceived- vs. actual-risk could be argued as the single-greatest threat to our economy and ability to move to a truly sustainable society. Specifically, the outrageous costs we devote to mitigating risks whose actual threat is low or non-existent but which impassion the ignorant who demand action.

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see what happens to the buried TRU wastes in several MDAs, which are currently slated to be stabilized in-place. These buried TRU wastes include mixed wastes and the MDAs, although they pre-date WIPP requirements, can never meet the performance requirements of a WIPP-like repository.

Anonymous said...

Well, 1:14 PM, in case you haven't realized it yet, environmentalists aren't really against pollution because of the effects it has on the lives of people.

No, they hate pollution for it's own sake, because it makes the Earth non-pristine. A pristine Earth is to be valued above all else, no matter the Human price.

Anonymous said...

Funny how those that oppose the anti nuke crowd never see a problem with LANL operations. They can be leaking contaminants out of every orafice and still, they'll take pot shots at anyone who dares question the Lab. EPA is worthless if it can't either. Thank you St. Pete, for sticking it to northern New Mexico once again.

Anonymous said...

NMED and EPA must approve of final dispositon of buried TRU waste at LANL above a sole source aquifer. WIPP absolutely could never have been sited above such an aquifer. There are several management disposal areas (MDAs) at the Lab, which contain buried TRU mixed wastes slated to remain in near-surface dispositon.

Anonymous said...

12:11 pm: "It's funny how everyone who wants safe water is anti-nuke."

Is your drinking water not safe? How would you know? Or are you among those who think only "pure" water (i.e., no detectable content except H2O) is the only acceptable situation? Do you believe the EPA, or the CDC, or the NMED, when they say a certain level of detected contaminant is "safe"?? If not, how do keep from cowering in the corner about absolutely everything in life?

Pinky and The Brain said...

Was "management disposal areas (MDAs)" a Freudian slip?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps this will motivate NMED and EPA to expedite clean up of the superfund site in Española that's contaminating the sole source drinking water aquifer with high levels of volatile organic compounds that are migrating toward the Rio Grande.

Anonymous said...

A pristine Earth is to be valued above all else, no matter the Human price.
Of course a "pristine Earth" is an
illusion harbored by the ignorant.

Water naturally has "contaminants". Water
naturally is slightly radioactive - the
isotope Tritium is made naturally.

It never ceases to amaze me how these
so-called "environmentalists" can be
so clueless and ignorant of the science.

Anonymous said...

"Hell no! We won't glow!"

John said...

To: 1:14 PM 1/29/08

Well written. Thanks.

I have read about the exorbitant cost of the arsenic reduction, but not the risk analysis.

Do you have any references, so that I can pass this information along to friends and colleagues? It would be most helpful.


Anonymous said...

Here's a reference to the study, which as considerable uncertainty in the cancer deaths.

"If the multistage Weibull model accurately estimates the benefits, the years of life added is comparable or lower than the anticipated years lost due to transportation associated with the delivery of chemicals, disposal of treatment waste, and operation of the water treatment system."

Anonymous said...

Floyd J. Frost, Joseph Chwirka, Gunther F. Craun, Bruce Thomson, John Stomp, "Physical Injury Risks Associated with Drinking Water Arsenic Treatment", Risk Analysis 22 (2), 235–243 (2002).

Anonymous said...

What about the untreated fecal matter in the water?

Anonymous said...

Bullshit, in small amounts, same as naturally-occuring arsenic in drinking water, below 50 ppb, won't hurt you, and may be beneficial. Too bad about those 3
who will be hurt by transporting the clean-up stuff needed to get down to 10 ppb. Maybe it will be those who promoted the 10 ppb threshold who get run over. We can hope.

Anonymous said...

Define huge costs. Until you can state it will cost x amount to remove arsenic, then you are in the same boat as complaining there are no risk benefit analysis being done. Such work HAS been done, but you haven't seen it. And, I wonder if you are objective and intelligent enough to understand it if you had seen it.