Feb 8, 2008

Environmental groups sue LANL over water - LANL Edition

By James E. Rickman, February 8, 2008

Los Alamos in compliance with Clean Water Act

Laboratory officials expressed surprise to a lawsuit alleging noncompliance with the federal Clean Water Act filed Thursday by citizens groups against Los Alamos National Security, LLC and the Department of Energy.

"The Laboratory is in compliance with its storm water permit under the federal Clean Water Act,” said Dick Watkins, associate director for Environment, Safety, Health and Quality (ESH&Q). “The Laboratory takes its environmental responsibilities very seriously, and we are firmly committed to protecting human health and the environment.”

Independently, the municipalities of Los Alamos and Santa Fe have certified the safety of their respective municipal drinking water supplies in annual water quality reports.

The Laboratory has been actively engaged with the Environmental Protection Agency in developing a new storm-water permit to be issued by EPA.

“During this process, the Laboratory also met with these citizens’ groups, provided them an overview of our storm water program and a tour of a number of sites showing Laboratory storm-water controls,” said Susan G. Stiger, associate director for environmental programs (ADEP). “Rather than a lawsuit, we had hoped to continue our work with these groups along with the general public through the public permitting process.”

For more than a decade, the Laboratory has taken decisive action to understand and address the potential consequences of legacy operations. For example, the Laboratory has greatly reduced its wastewater outfalls from 141 to 17. The Laboratory plans to reduce its outfalls even further and is striving toward zero liquid discharge.

Additionally, the Laboratory operates a comprehensive storm-water monitoring network with more than 200 water-sampling locations. The Laboratory regularly reports sampling results to regulatory agencies and takes action to reduce or eliminate contaminate migration. These sampling data also are available to the public.

These citizens’ groups have raised assertions regarding PCBs. It was the Laboratory’s studies of the Rio Grande that first identified the presence of PCBs upstream and downstream of the Laboratory. The Laboratory demonstrated that PCB levels in the Rio Grande upstream of the Laboratory are comparable to PCB levels downstream. The studies also showed that the Laboratory’s contribution to PCBs in the Rio Grande is relatively minor compared to the widespread presence of PCBs in the Rio Grande. The Laboratory continues to take measures to further reduce PCBs.

For nearly 30 years, the Laboratory has sampled agricultural soils and crops irrigated with Rio Grande water downstream of the Laboratory for an exhaustive suite of potential contaminants. These studies have shown no impacts from Laboratory operations.

“The Laboratory is committed to meeting its environmental responsibilities,” said Stiger. “As residents of Northern New Mexico, we are committed to being good neighbors and environmental stewards.”


Anonymous said...

It is good to see some favorable commentary expressing the Lab side, or shall I say, the rational side, of this story, complete with some actual facts. The bit about PCBs being no different downstream than upstream is interesting.

I expect that logic will not prevail. We will soon see the usual flames from the Santa Fe anti-nukes. Something like "This is a cover up! What would you expect from arrogant scientists who think they are the best and brightest, but who don't mind killing our children!" etc. Brace yourselves.

In the previous topic, referring to the Amigos Bravos, 2/8/08 9:24 AM said:

"These people are whackos. Their concerns are primarily based on emotionalism, not demonstrable empirical evidence of impending harm to health."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

For what it's worth, I did a little bit of searching and found that Amigos Bravos are closely tied with Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety(CCNS), co-plaintiff, and another antinuclear group with only one apparent objective: to close the Lab and put an end to Nudlear weapons work. These two organizations share a common legal service, Western Envronmental Network, a gigantic western non-profit network with a regional office in Taos.

I wonder if LANL could sue these people back, plus Pogo and the Los Alamos Study group to boot? Are there any examples of this? It costs the Lab a lot of money, and it costs some jobs, to defend against this.

Anonymous said...


(remove carriage return)

Anonymous said...

These two organizations share a common legal service, Western Envronmental Network, a gigantic western non-profit network with a regional office in Taos

..a gigantic western "non-profit"

Note quotes above.

Don't think that they don't enrich
themselves with "attorney's fees".

The self-righteous wackos also have
quite a scam going.

Anonymous said...

That wiki article referenced by 8:22 AM concerns Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP), a practice of preemptive law suits aimed (in theory) at stifling free speech. The emphasis in that article, more in its links, is on anti-SLAPP, legislation that upholds the rights of free speech.

Free speech has limits. There is a big difference between stating your opinion directly, such as "Nuclear weapons are evil. Shut down LANL.", and creating a cloud of distrust with malicious and unfounded claims. If LANL is damaged by having to defend against false claims, then LANL should sue for damages.

It seems to me that if LANL is governed by the requirements of NMED and EPA, then the action of Amigos Bravos should be against NMED or EPA for either inadequate requirements or lack of enforcement. Amigos Bravos appears to be circumventing established environmental review procedures with unfounded claims. This indicates to me that they have an agenda other than spiritual water.

Anonymous said...

11:40 AM wrote:
Don't think that they don't enrich
themselves with "attorney's fees".

You are correct! Their non-profit status also gives them tax advantages that you and I pay for in the end. The home organization pays no income tax, and donations made to them are tax deductible.

Anonymous said...

Also Joni Arends...head of CCNS...supposedly has a law degree and probably feels like she has an edge she never had before in her crusade against the LAb.

Anonymous said...

Denial ain't just a river 5 miles downstream from LANL.