Friday, August 26, 2011

8/27: Award-Winning 'Atomic Mom' Documentary at White Sands Film Festival in Las Cruces

Atomic Mom, an award-winning feature length documentary from M.T. Silvia, will screen on Saturday, August 27th, at 4:00 PM at the Allen Theatres Cineport 10 at 500 South Telshor Blvd. in Las Cruces, NM in the White Sands International Film Festival

Atomic Mom weaves an intimate portrait of a complex mother-daughter relationship within an obscure -– but important –- moment in American history. As the only female scientist present during atomic detonations in the Nevada desert, Pauline Silvia, the filmmaker’s mother, undergoes a crisis of conscience. After a long silence and prompted by her daughter, she finally reveals grim secrets of working in the U.S. atomic testing program. 

In our present moment of Wikileaks, Pauline is a similar whistle-blower having been cowed by the silencing machine of the US military for decades. In an attempt to reconcile with her own mother’s past, her daughter, filmmaker M.T. Silvia, meets Emiko Okada, a Hiroshima survivor trying to reconcile her own history in Japan. The film follows these survivors, each on a different end of atomic warfare, as they “meet” through the filmmaking process, and as they, with startling honestly, attempt to understand the other. 

With the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the footage of the devastation is hauntingly familiar to the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As Japan experiences its second nuclear crisis, Atomic Mom illustrates how we are all downwind of this story. 

Atomic Mom invites viewers to confront American nuclear history in a completely new way and will inspire dialogue about human rights, personal responsibility, and the possibility -– and hope -– of peace.  

M.T. Silvia is an independent filmmaker. Her first documentary Picardy Drive (2002, Documentary, 57min) aired on KQED’s ImageMaker series, FreeSpeechTV and airs yearly during the holidays on Oakland’s KTOP. She has worked professionally in the film industry for over twenty years at both Skywalker Sound and Pixar Animation Studios. Among many mainstream film and CD credits, she has also worked on several independent films. 

August 26, 2011 at 08:26 AM in Film, Las Cruces, Nuclear Arms, Power | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Navajo's Take Fight To Protect Water to Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

On Friday, the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) and its client, Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM), filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights seeking to halt a uranium mining operation in the Navajo villages of Church Rock and Crownpoint, NM. They will conduct a press conference today, Monday, May 16, at 8:30 AM at the National Press Club in Washington, DC regarding the filing.

After 16 years of legal fighting, the New Mexico Environmental Law Center has exhausted all avenues offered by the U.S. legal system to overturn the mining license granted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to Hydro Resources Inc. (HRI). Should HRI be allowed to mine, the drinking water for approximately 15,000 people will be contaminated.

“The HRI license marks the first time that any mining company in the U.S. has been federally authorized to mine uranium in a community drinking water aquifer,” says Eric Jantz, NMELC attorney. “This aquifer provides the sole source of drinking water for the mostly Navajo community members represented by ENDAUM. By granting this license, the NRC has failed to uphold its mandate to protect the health and safety of all Americans.”

HRI has stated its objective is to begin mining in Church Rock by mid-2013, and the threatened community has few options left.

“ENDAUM’s best hope is to encourage the executive branch of the federal government to intervene to oppose this license,” says Larry King, an ENDAUM board member. “Efforts over the past 15 years at the federal level have failed to engage officials and regulators about the impact this mining will have on the community’s health and water supply. We have to fight in every legal venue to prevent this mining from taking place."

The petition seeks remedies for the violation of the Navajos human rights and requests that the Commission recommend to the United States to take restorative measures including:

•    The NRC should suspend HRI’s materials license until such time as HRI has remediated the radioactive surface contamination on Church Rock’s Section 17, and the United States has taken significant and meaningful steps to remediate the abandoned uranium mines within the boundaries of the Church Rock Chapter;

•    That the NRC require HRI to submit comprehensive baseline groundwater quality and other hydrological, geological and geochemical data, subject to a public hearing;

•    That the NRC rescind HRI’s license for the Church Rock Section 17 and Unit 1 sites which are subject to the Navajo Nation’s ban on uranium mining and processing;

•    That the NRC or other appropriate administrative agencies prohibit forced removal of Petitioner Larry King and  his family from Church Rock Section 17 or forced disruption of his subsistence grazing practices or cultural activities.

“Multiple international human rights treaties say health is a human right. The NMELC and our clients agree, and by licensing uranium projects in drinking water aquifers, the U.S. government has failed to protect the Navajo community’s human rights,” said Jantz. “New uranium mining will further desecrate Navajo communities across the reservation already suffering illnesses and death because of legacy mining and waste.”

May 16, 2011 at 12:31 AM in Legal Issues, Mining, Native Americans, Nuclear Arms, Power, Water Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Community Groups Negotiate Historic Clean Water Act Settlement with LANL

From Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety:
Community groups and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) reached a final negotiated settlement agreement this week that resolves a three-year legal dispute over contaminated stormwater runoff emanating from the Lab. The settlement came after two years of negotiations among community groups, LANL (both Los Alamos National Security, the for-profit consortium that manages the Lab, and the Department of Energy), the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

A coalition of eight community organizations and two individuals announced the historic settlement resulting from a Clean Water Act (CWA) citizen enforcement action filed in March 2008 against LANL. The coalition was represented in this action by the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) in Taos, New Mexico. The settlement supplements a previous agreement, negotiated by many of the same groups involved in the CWA enforcement action, on a new individual stormwater discharge permit for LANL that was issued by EPA on November 1, 2010. 

The new permit is one of the most stringent in the United States. It requires LANL to install pollution control measures, increase monitoring and clean up numerous hazardous waste dump sites scattered throughout LANL’s property. Items not specifically dealt with by the new stormwater permit were addressed in the settlement agreement reached today.

“This historic victory and the recent stormwater permit will give the public strong tools for participating in the cleanup process at LANL,” said Joni Arends, Executive Director of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS), which has been monitoring LANL for over 20 years. “We’re looking forward to ensuring that the Lab and the regulatory agencies implement the permit so that the Río Grande and downstream communities will be protected from contamination running downhill from LANL”.

The settlement and stormwater permit together require that LANL capture and eliminate runoff from over 400 waste dump sites that have historically discharged pollutants to the Río Grande, a source of drinking water for Santa Fe.

In accordance with the new stormwater permit, LANL must install control measures at all sites by May 1, 2011 and eliminate toxic discharges from 63 “high priority sites” within three years –- by November 2013. These 63 sites are the proverbial bad actors that require immediate attention. Stormwater discharges from the remaining sites must be captured or eliminated by November, 2015.

Under the terms of the negotiated settlement, the community groups and their experts and technical advisors will have access to the waste dump sites, have technical meetings with LANL and have the opportunity to carefully review and comment on all decisions being made under the new permit. The agreement provides funding for the community groups to hire experts and obtain technical support to help facilitate their participation in the permitting process.

“This is a huge victory for clean water and the protection of people’s health,” said Brian Shields, Executive Director of Amigos Bravos, one of the community organizations that filed the citizen complaint against LANL. “The settlement agreement is an example of what can be achieved through perseverance, independent analysis, and tremendous support from the community.”

The new stormwater permit and negotiated settlement are designed to eliminate contaminated stormwater discharges from the Lab that could carry pollutants to the Río Grande. Stormwater is rainwater or snow melt that does not soak into the ground and becomes surface runoff that flows into rivers and streams. Stormwater running across contaminated soils, such as the dump sites at LANL, can pick up toxic materials and carry them into rivers and streams.

“It’s a new day,” said Matthew Bishop, the WELC attorney who represented the community groups and individuals. “When we first looked at the dump sites and stormwater issues at the Lab back in 2003, there was no site-specific monitoring, very few pollution control measures in place, and no meaningful corrective action occurring,” added Bishop. “With the new individual stormwater permit and negotiated settlement, we should see significant improvements to water quality in the Rio Grande.”

Some of the community groups have been studying LANL’s toxic legacy for many years, but the Cerro Grande fire in May 2000 compelled CCNS and Amigos Bravos to conduct a two-year study of LANL’s historic discharges. The two groups joined with community organizations in Santa Clara Pueblo and the Embudo Valley, along with New Mexico’s acequias to form Communities for Clean Water, whose mission is to protect the region’s waters for drinking, recreation, cultural practices, wildlife, and production of healthy food.

The Clean Water Act citizen complaint was filed in March, 2008 to address LANL’s lack of adequate monitoring and reporting and the Lab’s failure to ensure adequate pollution control measures were in place at all discharge sites.

“It was just inexcusable that LANL had failed for so long to clean up their toxic mess, which affects nearby Pueblo Nations and small towns and cities along the Río Grande,” said Kathy Sanchez, Director of Tewa Women United. “All of us are connected by water.”

Together, the new stormwater permit and today’s historic settlement will help community organizations and citizens keep an eye on pollution control measures at LANL.

Organizations and individuals that filed the citizen complaint are Amigos Bravos, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, Embudo Valley Environmental Monitoring Group, New Mexico Acequia Association, Don Gabino Andrade Community Acequia Association, Partnership for Earth Spirituality, Río Grande Restoration, SouthWest Organizing Project, Tewa Women United, and Gilbert and Kathy Sanchez. The first four groups and Honor Our Pueblo Existence comprise Communities for Clean Water.

A full copy of the complaint, settlement agreement, and new stormwater permit can be found at:

April 29, 2011 at 03:43 PM in Environment, Legal Issues, Nuclear Arms, Power | |

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Anti-Nuke Activist Dr. Helen Caldicott to Speak on 3/20 in Albuquerque and 3/21 in Santa Fe

With a nuclear emergency unfolding right now in Northern Japan, these appearances by Dr. Caldicott couldn't be more timely. You can follow her on Facebook.

HelenCaldicott From the Los Alamos Study Group (LASG): We are excited to be hosting Helen Caldicott, MD, a world renowned physician, author and speaker for two public talks, in Albuquerque (March 20) and Santa Fe (March 21). Helen is a unique individual and an inspiration to many. She is coming here to help fundraise for the Study Group and has been a friend of ours for many years.

For the last four decades Dr. Caldicott has played a uniquely important role in the politics of nuclear weapons and nuclear power worldwide. Her seven books, thousands of public talks and countless interviews have been hugely influential in the global movement for nuclear disarmament. In the 1980s the movement she helped inspire was a significant international force, specifically affecting the nuclear policies of Mikhail Gorbachev. That movement, and Dr. Caldicott, helped lead the way to the nuclear rapprochement that marked the end of the Cold War.

Tickets are a $10 and can be purchased at the door. Attendance is limited to the first 150 persons Albuquerque) and 180 persons (Santa Fe). Helen's books will be on sale before and after both events:

▪ Sunday, March 20th, 6-8:00 PM: "If You Love This Planet: A Plan to Save the Earth," presentation at The Outpost Performance Space, 210 Yale SE, Albuquerque, 2 blocks south of Central Avenue.

▪ Monday, March 21st, 6:30-8:30 PM: "If You Love This Planet: A Plan to Save the Earth," presentation at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Santa Fe, 107 W. Barcelona Road, Santa Fe, one block north of Cordova Rd between Galisteo Street and Barcelona Road.

Quoting from her website:

“Helen Caldicott has the rare ability to combine science with passion, logic with love, and urgency with humor.” — Naomi Klein.

The single most articulate and passionate advocate of citizen action to remedy the nuclear and environmental crises, Dr Helen Caldicott, has devoted the last 38 years to an international campaign to educate the public about the medical hazards of the nuclear age and the necessary changes in human behavior to stop environmental destruction. 

Born in Melbourne, Australia in 1938, Dr Caldicott received her medical degree from the University of Adelaide Medical School in 1961. She founded the Cystic Fibrosis Clinic at the Adelaide Children's Hospital in 1975 and subsequently was an instructor in pediatrics atHarvard Medical School and on the staff of the Children's Hospital Medical Center, Boston, Mass., until 1980 when she resigned to work full time on the prevention of nuclear war.

Dr Caldicott has received many prizes and awards for her work, including the Lannan Foundation's 2003 Prize for Cultural Freedom and 21 honorary doctoral degrees, and she was personally nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Linus Pauling - himself a Nobel Laureate.

March 17, 2011 at 12:53 PM in Energy, Environment, Events, Nuclear Arms, Power | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

2/3: Rally in Santa Fe to Preserve Our Clean Water and Quality of Life

On Thursday, February 3rd, New Mexicans from around the state will converge on Santa Fe to let their elected leaders hear the people's message: we need to protect our water and communities!

Everyday New Mexicans and members of sponsoring organizations will rally outside the East entrance of the Capitol on Thursday, February 3rd, at noon. Participants of the hour-long event will let New Mexico’s leaders know why maintaining common sense water policies is vital to protecting our unique quality of life for all our citizens.

All those attending the rally are invited to bring glass or plastic bottles into which they can put messages to “send an SOS to our leaders.” These messages in bottles will allow participants to tell their legislators how important clean water is to all our families, farms and communities. All messages in bottles will be delivered to the legislators at the end of the rally.

The rally is cosponsored by Communities for Clean Water (CCW), Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS), Conservation Voters New Mexico (CVNM), Environment New Mexico (ENM), New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light (NMIPL), MASE (Multi-Cultural Alliance for Safe Environment), New Energy Economy (NEE), New Mexico Conference of Churches (NMCC) and the Office of Life, Peace, Justice and Creation Stewardship of Gallup Diocese.

All interested citizens are encouraged to attend. For more information contact Lilia Diaz, New Energy Economy, 505-670-5971.

January 29, 2011 at 12:32 PM in Environment, Events, NM Legislature 2011, Nuclear Arms, Power, Water Issues | Permalink | Comments (5)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Gov. Bill Richardson Brokers Deal with North Korea for Return of UN Inspectors and More


Today, CNN reported that, "North Korea has agreed with US troubleshooter Bill Richardson to permit the return of UN nuclear inspectors as part of a package of measures to ease tensions on the peninsula."

Also today, Governor Richardson released the following statement about his visit to North Korea and the news that the country will not retaliate for military drills carried out today by South Korea.

"I am very encouraged by the news that North Korea will not react militarily to South Korea's drills,” Governor Richardson said. “During my meetings in Pyongyang, I repeatedly pressed North Korea not to retaliate. The result is that South Korea was able to flex its muscles, and North Korea reacted in a statesmanlike manner. I hope this will signal a new chapter and a round of dialogue to lessen tension on the Korean peninsula."

Governor Richardson said he reached agreement on the following three points during several meetings with top North Korean leaders:

1. Allowing IAEA monitors access to North Korea's uranium enrichment facility.

2. Negotiating a deal for a third party, such as South Korea, to buy fresh-fuel rods from North Korea.

3. Discussing a military commission consisting of representatives from North Korea, South Korea and the United States to monitor and prevent conflicts in the disputed areas of the West Sea. Additionally, creating a hot line between the North Korean and South Korean militaries to avert potential crises.

CNN also reported that Major General Pak Rim-Su, who leads North Korean forces along the tense border with the South, told Richardson that North Korea had recovered the remains of several hundred US servicemen killed during the 1950-1953 Korean War and offered to help secure their return to the United States.

Gov. Richardson was supposed to catch a flight from North Korea to Beijing earlier today (yesterday in North Korea) on his way back to New Mexico, but People's Daily is reporting that the flight was canceled due to heavy fog. CNN's Wolf Blitzer, who traveled with the governor to North Korea, said, "I've never seen such thick fog; and everyone who witnessed it, including our North Korean handlers, said it was the worst fog they'd ever been in." Gov. Richardson got on a  (the next day, 12/21 in Korea) and is now in Beijing.

As for the extra night in Pyongyang, Blitzer had this to say:

And here's something you probably never thought you'd hear: What exactly are we doing to kill some time on this extra night in Pyongyang? We're at a karaoke bar singing all the best, latest great hits of the '70s including "Hotel California" and "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree". Gov. Bill Richardson didn't sing, instead he was smoking a big fat cigar, enjoying The Eagles.

December 20, 2010 at 06:04 PM in Gov. Bill Richardson, International Relations, Military Affairs, Nuclear Arms, Power | |

Friday, December 03, 2010

Rep. Martin Heinrich Pushes for New START Treaty

Martin_Heinrich In a letter to U.S. Senators Mitch McConnell and Jon Kyl, U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01) voiced his strong support for the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) and urged the Senators to support its ratification in the closing weeks of the 111th Congress. Among the reasons Rep. Heinrich outlines in the letter for swift ratification is the importance of the New START to the future funding of our national laboratories.

Rep. Heinrich states in the letter (pdf):

“As a Member of Congress representing New Mexico on the House Armed Services Committee, I fully appreciate your concerns regarding the modernization of our national laboratories, and I strongly support your efforts to ensure their long-term viability. 

“Our national laboratories employ some of the best and brightest minds in the country and their mission is essential to the credibility of our nation’s deterrent. That is why I was encouraged by the Obama Administration’s promise to increase funding for the labs by $10 billion over the next decade. 

“Moreover, the recent pledge of an additional $4 billion guarantees that our laboratories will have the tools necessary to ensure that our nuclear weapons are safe, secure, and reliable for years to come.  Our nation’s three lab directors— George Miller of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; Michael Anastasio of the Los Alamos National Laboratory; and Paul Hommert of Sandia National Laboratories— even offered their assurances that the funding “sustains the science, technology and engineering base.”  If New START is not ratified, I fear these future investments could be lost.” 

Background: The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, would cut the limits on strategic warheads to 1,550 for the United States and Russia from the current ceiling of 2,200. The pact also would establish new procedures to allow both countries to inspect each other's nuclear arsenals to verify compliance. New START needs 67 votes for ratification by the United States Senate. 

Click for key facts about the New START Treaty.


December 3, 2010 at 04:41 PM in National Security, Nuclear Arms, Power, Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01) | |

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

4/23 & 4/26: Public Hearing in Los Alamos and Albuquerque for Los Alamos National Lab Hazardous Waste Permit

From Dave McCoy, Director, Citizen Action New Mexico:
There will be a public hearing held in both Albuquerque and Los Alamos for the Los Alamos National Laboratory Hazardous Waste permit. The hearing will take place on Friday, April 23, from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM at UNM Los Alamos, Student Services Building, Lecture Hall Room 230 (Building 2), located at 4000 University, and on Monday, April 26, from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM at the Smith-Brasher Lecture Hall, SB 100, located at 717 University SE at the CNM Main Campus in Albuquerque. There will be public comment periods at both locations from 2:00 to 4:00 PM and 6:00 to 9:00 PM. (For the evening session the Hearing Officer will stay and listen to all public comments until they are done.)

Your comment is urgently needed.

The Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Resource Conservation and Recovery Plan (RCRA) Part B Draft Permit is required to provide protection of the public and environment from dangerous wastes at LANL. Some 21,000,000 cubic feet of hazardous, mixed hazardous and radioactive waste from nuclear weapons production have been buried at LANL legacy waste dumps across LANL mesas.

LANL wants to continue to conduct Open Burning that has released dioxins into the air. The Environment Department wants to deny that portion of the permit.

The pathway for contamination is also through the vadose zone to the regional aquifer. A second set of the waste inventory is the large uncharacterized volume of liquid wastes released from outfalls discharging into canyon settings causing surface contamination and remobilized by wind and water providing contamination to the stream bottoms for transport to the Rio Grande. A third source of contamination is in shallow soils randomly remobilized by surface run-off and wind erosion.

Seepage ponds, sometimes called evaporation ponds, were used as outfalls and overflowed directly into the canyons. The dangerous contamination at LANL buried in unlined pits and trenches and on the soil surface is provided a pathway down canyons by fires, groundwater and surface water runoff that enters municipal drinking water wells for the cities of Los Alamos and Santa Fe. LANL contamination flows into the Rio Grande River that provides drinking water to downstream New Mexico municipalities and residents.

If you don’t want to prepare testimony, you can read into the hearing record parts of the 3,700 pages of technical reports that the Environment Department kept secret from the public for ten years about Los Alamos Laboratory. The reports will be at a table.

Comments may also be made in writing to the New Mexico Environment Department at:

New Mexico Environment Department
Hazardous Waste Bureau
2905 Rodeo Park Drive East, Building 1
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505-6303

See you there! Please forward this information to others.

April 21, 2010 at 08:40 AM in Environment, Events, Land Issues, Nuclear Arms, Power, Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

New Mexico Environment Department Obeys Court Order to Release Secret TechLaw Report to Citizen Action

The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) decided to drop its appeal of the lawsuit it lost against Citizen Action New Mexico, an Albuquerque-based public interest group. NMED sued Citizen Action seeking to withhold a secret 2006 technical report written by TechLaw, Inc. The TechLaw report reviewed a computer model that was written by Sandia Laboratories to assure the public that poisonous wastes from the Mixed Waste Landfill (MWL) would not contaminate Albuquerque’s drinking water, according to a statement released by Citizen Action. The group received the TechLaw report on Tuesday.

Attorney Nancy Simmons stated, “What was the point of the Environment Department to spend a huge amount of taxpayer dollars, more money than dozens of New Mexico taxpayers combined make in a year, to generate and hide this report from the public and to sue my client in court to block its release? Now my client has discovered that the Department has literally hundreds of other technical reports that they're also refusing to release.”

The TechLaw report presents serious doubts as to the reliability of the Sandia computer model used to predict contaminant movement beneath the MWL dump. Dave McCoy, Director of Citizen Action states, “NMED secrecy put Citizen Action and the public at a disadvantage in proceedings held to determine if it would be safe to leave the dump’s cancer-causing, long-lived radionuclides, solvents and heavy metals under a dirt cover in unlined pits and trenches. NMED ran interference to avoid public scrutiny until Sandia Labs could complete installation of the dirt cover rather than excavate the dump’s 720,000 cubic feet of radioactive and hazardous wastes above Albuquerque’s drinking water.”

The TechLaw report describes the Sandia computer model as a “Black Box.” TechLaw said, “We caution NMED against its acceptance.” TechLaw cites the lack of adequate information to assess whether the model could actually perform satisfactorily. Software quality assurance was absent. A special TechLaw concern is that the computer model is not accurate to identify the danger of the mobile contaminants like tritium and the cancer-causing solvent PCE to contaminate groundwater. The Sandia record of disposal shows a large inventory of solvents including PCE and the radionuclide Tritium buried in the dump. The computer model does not recognize that Tritium and many solvents have already been released from the dump and thus did not identify the danger for solvents including PCE and Tritium to contaminate the groundwater.

The computer model predicts that tritium would not contaminate the groundwater in a thousand years. Registered Geologist and hydrogeologist, Robert Gilkeson, said that, “As real time proof that the Sandia computer model is worthless, Tritium is already found in a groundwater monitoring well MW4 that was installed deep below the dump. In addition, there is a plume of nickel contamination in the groundwater below the dump that is growing in size. The groundwater may also be contaminated with PCE and other solvents but the monitoring wells and sampling methods have many features to hide the detection of the solvent contamination. The National Academy of Sciences has rejected the Department of Energy’s use of computer models that are not supported by accurate data. There has never been a reliable network of monitoring wells at the MWL dump to provide accurate data to a computer model.”

Gilkeson added that “TechLaw’s recommendation to improve the design of the dirt cover were not paid attention to. TechLaw also identified that the placement of neutron probes beneath the unlined pits and trenches of the dump has no value for monitoring the movement of water through the dirt cover that is above the dump. The NMED did not make the important changes to the methods used to monitor the performance of the cover that were identified as necessary by TechLaw.” The NMED did not inform the stakeholders of TechLaw’s concerns for the design of the cover and the inappropriate methods used to monitor the integrity of the cover.

TechLaw raises the significant issue that the dirt cover cannot be shown to provide long term protection of the public as required by Department of Energy Order 435.1. The report stated, “[I]t appears unlikely that the United States federal government can or will be able to maintain the integrity of the cover for the entire 1000 year performance period.”

TechLaw pointed out that the storm water run-on and run-off controls are inadequate for protecting against damage to the cover for that period of time. Plutonium wastes in the dump can remain dangerous for 250,000 years.

Citizen Action received Freedom of Information documents showing that large portions of the protective berms placed around the MWL dump washed away in major storm activity in 2007. The storm water collected in pools above the buried wastes and the water was a driver to move contamination toward groundwater.

Background of the lawsuit In October 2008, New Mexico 1st District Court Judge Daniel Sanchez rejected the NMED argument that the TechLaw report involved NMED “thought processes” and could not be examined under the Public Records Act. The Court refused to allow the NMED expansive interpretation of “executive privilege” for withholding the report. Before the NMED lawsuit, Citizen Action requested an opinion from the New Mexico Attorney General. The Attorney General twice issued written decisions that the TechLaw report was subject to being furnished under the Public Records Act and also intervened after NMED filed the lawsuit against Citizen Action.

The 1st District Court decision stated that, “Public business is the public’s business. The people have the right to know. Freedom of information about public records and proceedings is their just heritage. Citizens must have the legal right to investigate the conduct of their affairs.”

A year of appellate delay by NMED ensued after Citizen Action won its counter lawsuit. Citizen Action charged that the state violated the Public Records Act by failing to provide the TechLaw document to Citizen Action. Citizen Action could not obtain the TechLaw document pending the Department’s appeal.

The Appellate Court twice sent notice to NMED of its intention to dismiss their appeal because NMED improperly filed its appeal. NMED explained that the District Court Clerk somehow misplaced the paper work. The Court of Appeals gave NMED 60 days to proceed to an evidentiary hearing in District Court about the excuse. The Court’s deadline passed on September 22, 2009 with no action taken by the NMED attorney. Citizen Action then filed a motion to dismiss the NMED appeal.

For more information contact Citizen Action New Mexico: (505) 262-1862 or visit the Citizen Action website. Citizen Action is a project of the New Mexico Community Foundation.

November 14, 2009 at 06:20 PM in Environment, Legal Issues, Nuclear Arms, Power | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Public Interest Groups Win Changes to Long-Term Groundwater Monitoring at Sandia Lab’s Chemical Waste Landfill

Citizen Action New Mexico, an Albuquerque-based public interest group, along with other public participants, reached agreement with the New Mexico Environment Department, Sandia National Laboratories, and the Department of Energy for changes to a Closure Plan for the Chemical Waste Landfill (CWL). Citizen Action’s request for a public hearing on the Closure Plan was avoided by agreement on new terms for groundwater monitoring at the CWL, according to a statement released by the group.

The CWL at Sandia Labs received hazardous wastes from 1962 to 1986 and had to be excavated because a plume of Trichloroethylene (TCE) from the dump contaminated Albuquerque’s drinking water aquifer. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, TCE is “highly likely” to cause cancer in humans.

Citizen Action and Registered Geologist and hydrogeologist Robert Gilkeson recommended that the continuing plume of TCE at the CWL needs to be monitored with a capable groundwater monitoring network. The agreement calls for the installation of four new groundwater monitoring wells at the CWL and the use of low flow sampling methods. Three new downgradient monitoring wells are to be placed as near as possible to the northern and western boundary of the CWL.

Citizen Action and Mr. Robert Gilkeson, in requesting a public hearing on the CWL closure plan, commented that the existing downgradient monitoring wells were too distant from the CWL boundary to comply with federal well monitoring requirements.

A new upgradient background monitoring well will be installed at the CWL to replace the old background monitoring well that had a corroded carbon steel well screen. Carbon steel well screens have well known properties to mask the detection of contamination. Other monitoring wells at the CWL were also drilled using mud rotary drilling methods that hide contaminants of concern. NMED put out orders in 2007 that new wells shall not be drilled with mud rotary methods because the muds have properties to prevent the detection of contamination.

Mr. Gilkeson stated, “The efforts by the public were successful to enforce the monitoring requirements of the state and federal hazardous waste laws. The type of monitoring network and the sampling methods to be put into place at the CWL need to be established at many other locations at Sandia Labs, Kirtland Air Force Base and Los Alamos National Laboratory. We are well aware of the need for early detection of poisons that can contaminate the drinking water aquifer.”

Dave McCoy, Director for Citizen Action, stresses that, “The Mixed Waste Landfill at Sandia Labs received many of the same types of chemicals that were put into the CWL plus radionuclides such as Plutonium-239 and Americium-241. There are 720,000 cu. ft. of radioactive and hazardous waste in the shallow unlined pits and trenches of the MWL. No excuse exists for not excavating this much larger amount of contamination that is leaking to Albuquerque’s drinking water aquifer.”

Citizen Action and other public comments for the Chemical Waste Landfill can be viewed on the comment page at the NMED website.

October 21, 2009 at 11:01 AM in Environment, Land Issues, Nuclear Arms, Power, Regulation, Water Issues | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, February 16, 2009

NM Environment Dept. Approves Defective Groundwater Monitoring Wells at Sandia's Mixed Waste Landfill

From Citizen Action New Mexico: Three new expensive monitoring wells installed at Sandia National Laboratories’ Mixed Waste Landfill for long-term monitoring are defective, according to Registered Geologist Robert Gilkeson, a ground water expert and geological scientist formerly employed by Los Alamos National Laboratories as lead consultant. The Mixed Waste Landfill contains an estimated 720,000 cubic ft. of radioactive and hazardous waste disposed of in unlined pits and trenches from 1959 to 1988. The waste lies above Albuquerque’s sole source drinking water aquifer.

According to Mr. Gilkeson, “The misplaced screens in the new monitoring wells have very low water levels right now that make them unsuitable for long-term monitoring because the wells will go dry in five to seven years.”

Sandia’s records document that the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) knowingly ordered the wells to be installed too deep with insufficient water standing in the wells for long-term monitoring.

To allow the new wells to provide water for more than twenty years, the well screens were made thirty feet long. However, the water level in the three wells is less than 8 feet. According to Sandia scientists, “At least 4 ft of standing water is required above the bottom of the well screen to properly purge and sample a well.”[i] The water table at the Mixed Waste Landfill is dropping approximately 0.5 to 1.5 ft per year because of municipal well draw down.

Mr. Gilkeson said, “The NMED ordered long screens in the three wells that allow contamination at the top of the aquifer to travel down in the open wells. This can contaminate the deep productive aquifer strata that produces the water tapped by city wells. This cross-contamination is prohibited by both state and federal law.”

Citizen Action Director Dave McCoy, an attorney, stated in a news release that “Under the Environment Department’s orders and federal law, the public was entitled to be formally heard and responded to before the Department made its final approval of these defective monitoring wells. The Department has probably wasted over a million dollars of taxpayer funds and left the Mixed Waste Landfill without any capability for early detection of contamination of the drinking water supply.”

Mr. Gilkeson said further, “In the past, the public was never informed that all of the groundwater monitoring data was defective. Now new monitoring wells are installed that will continue to provide invalid data. The remedy decision for a dirt cover to be placed above toxic wastes in unlined pits and trenches at the Mixed Waste Landfill has no scientific justification and should be delayed.”

Citizen Action and Mr. Gilkeson filed a complaint in 2007 with the Environmental Protection Agency that the Environment Department (NMED) was allowing the continuing use of defective monitoring wells that were built in the early 1990s. The complaint said that the unreliable data from those defective monitoring wells was used to make the decision to allow over 700,000 cubic feet of radioactive and hazardous waste to remain above Albuquerque’s drinking water aquifer.

The complaint by Citizen Action and Mr. Gilkeson to the EPA resulted in NMED requiring Sandia to install four new monitoring wells, three of which are defective and useless. The new monitoring wells are supposed to, but cannot, provide reliable data for early detection of contamination from the MWL dump.

In 2008, Citizen Action, a public interest group, used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain a list of 26 other Sandia defective groundwater monitoring wells, out of a network of 50 wells, that require installation of replacement wells.

NMED has paid no attention to the requests by Citizen Action and Mr. Gilkeson for public reviews of mistakes in the planning for the new well monitoring network at the Mixed Waste dump and dozens of other Sandia toxic waste sites. NMED is also keeping hundreds of technical documents secret from Citizen Action and the public.

Citizen Action and hydrogeologist Gilkeson have stated repeatedly that the wells installed at the Mixed Waste Landfill are constructed in a way that can actually “hide” contaminants and that the well monitoring network has never been capable of furnishing reliable monitoring data. This statement also applies to the new defective wells.

The NMED recently concluded that the identical type of soil cover intended for use at the Mixed Waste Landfill is not protective of groundwater at Los Alamos National Laboratory’s MDA H dump that has only 2 percent of the waste buried at the MWL dump.”

Gilkeson cited similar problems with the network of monitoring wells installed at waste sites at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Recent reports by the Department of Energy (DOE) Inspector General, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Academy of Sciences support Gilkeson’s concerns for the monitoring wells at LANL. These reports give further weight to Gilkeson’s concerns for the monitoring wells at Sandia.

Citizen Action is a project of the New Mexico Community Foundation.

[i] Goering, et al., 2002, page 25

February 16, 2009 at 04:00 PM in Environment, Nuclear Arms, Power, Water Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Edward Grothus 1923-2009

Ed Grothus at The Black Hole August 2005

Many of you know political activist and artist Barbara Grothus, and folks all over the world knew her illustrious dad Ed Grothus, who passed away this week. We were lucky enough to have gotten a meandering tour with Ed of his famous "Black Hole" in Los Alamos several years back while we were in Los Alamos for peace events commemorating the 60th anniversary of the atomic bomb blast in Hiroshima. Our visit with Ed was fascinating and moving. "Atomic Ed" will be missed by many, but his peaceful legacy will definitely live on. Here's a reminiscence of a life well lived that was put together by the Grothus family. Our condolences to all of Ed's friends and family.

Edward Bernard Grothus, of Los Alamos, died of cancer at home, at peace and surrounded by love on February 12, 2009. He was born June 28, 1923 in Clinton, Iowa. His family moved permanently to Davenport, Iowa in 1930.

Ed Grothus with "stuff" outside The Black Hole

Following graduation from high school, he traveled extensively by ship and motorcycle. He attended the University of Iowa where he (most importantly) learned to play bridge and made lifelong friends. He eventually followed his father’s trade as a machinist, the trade that brought him to Los Alamos in 1949. “Working at the Lab,” he said, “gave me an education that I could get nowhere else.” He met Margaret Jane Turnquist playing bridge in Los Alamos. They were married in 1951. In 1952 he began working at the Lab’s R-Site where he was a link in the process for making "better" atomic bombs. By 1968, he had become an antiwar activist and was an alternate delegate for candidate Eugene McCarthy at the notorious Democratic Convention in Chicago. He left LASL in 1969 when his conscience could no longer tolerate his role in nuclear bomb development. Since then, because of his singularity in speaking out against the nuclear mission of the Laboratory, he became the most interviewed and photographed person in Los Alamos.

Ed Grothus dressed as Peace Cardinal at Los Alamos Peace Rally

Ed was a hardworking and successful entrepreneur who invested in “things.” A child of the depression who extolled thrift and hated waste, he established the Los Alamos Sales Company in 1951 to buy and resell things -- mainly surplus equipment from the Los Alamos Laboratory. For many years the company operated as a catalog business, selling to universities world-wide. He typed and mimeographed pages that were assembled into catalogs by his children who also assisted with mailing, packing, and shipping.

Ed in front of Black Hole surplus-store-museum-studio-peace-shrine

Ed took an active interest in the community. When the government began to plan a subdivision for individual owners to develop, Ed got involved. He helped name the streets on Barranca Mesa and purchased the lot on which he built the first adobe home in Los Alamos. He took great pride in his plans and designs for the house, seeking to make it as durable, functional and maintenance free as possible. Nearly 60 years later, the house remains a testament to his attention to detail. Ed was a founding member of the do-it-yourself home builders association known as “The Nailbenders.” Later, in a new area known as Pajarito Acres, he was the first to build a home with the intention that it would be a rental property. When government houses came onto the market, he bought and sold those too, and upon his exit from the Laboratory, he and Margaret used proceeds to purchase The Shalako Shop which they operated for thirty years.

Ed's Omega Peace Institute in Los Alamos

In 1973, he purchased the Grace Lutheran Church property which he first called “The Omega Peace Institute” and later named “The First Church of High Technology.” In 1976, he acquired the adjacent “Mesa Market” property, which remained a grocery store for two years. When the grocery operation ceased, the Los Alamos Sales Company began moving things into the building. In recent years, the operation became known as “The Black Hole,” because “everything went in, and not even light could get out.” The business is well-known to set-decorators, artists, inventors and tinkerers, and tourists from around the world. He worked at the business six days a week until his illness forced him to slow down in late 2008. He never stopped thinking about the business despite his physical absence from it.

Sunflower peace display, 60th Hiroshima anniversary, Los Alamos

Ed refused to abandon The Black Hole during the forced evacuation of Los Alamos in 2000 when the government-set fire devastated the mountain landscape and burned more than 400 residences. The fire burned up to the foundation of the Black Hole, but Ed’s vigilance kept the fire from consuming it. He was arrested after the fire passed and was sentenced to community service for “refusing to obey a police order.” He had predicted such a disastrous immolation and had encouraged the County to build a perimeter road as a fire barrier. He strongly fought the use of salt on snowy streets because of its killing effect on trees and the subsequent erosion of soil and further environmental degradation.

Grothus was most known for his antiwar and antinuclear activism. He was a frequent writer of “Letters to the Editor” and in 1966 wrote “An Ode to a Leader, Misleading,” dedicated to President Johnson. In it he wrote “. . .search and destroy, ignoble duty . . .” His motto became “Semper Fabricate, Numquam Consumite" or “Always Build, Never Destroy.” As an early Obama supporter, Ed was pleased to note in his inaugural address that President Obama said, “. . . people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.” Despite his antiwar and antinuclear stance, he never called for the closure of the Laboratory. He said the Lab should stop making things useful only for killing, but he supported a mission for scientists to more efficiently harvest the energy of the sun, the infinite power source.

Preparing and launching peace lanterns, Ashley Pond, Los Alamos

Grothus designed and commissioned two granite obelisks to mark the explosion of the first atomic bomb. The obelisks were quarried and carved in China, then shipped to Los Alamos in December 2007. The obelisks are white granite and are designed to sit on black bases, “doomsday stones,” engraved with text in 15 languages that describe the “most significant man-made event in human history.” Important to him among the messages engraved in the stone was, “No one is secure unless everyone is secure.” When erected, each monument will weigh over 39 tons and stand nearly 40 feet tall. At the time of his death, Grothus remained optimistic that the obelisks would find a home.

He was featured in numerous international magazine and newspaper articles and stories on national radio and television. He has appeared in various historical books, as a character in novels and, thanks to a variety of international artists, in theaters, galleries and music productions. He also has a significant presence on the internet. He was the subject of two documentaries including “Atomic Ed and the Black Hole,” by filmmaker, Ellen Spiro, broadcast on HBO. He was also the subject of investigations by the FBI and Secret Service on several occasions.

Near Los Alamos, NM

In 2006 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Indigenous World Uranium Summit for his work to promote a Nuclear-Free Future. In 2007, he was humbled to be the first non-Native American to receive the prestigious Alan Houser Memorial Award from the Houser family at the annual Governor’s Awards in the Arts for the State of New Mexico.

He was proud of his family with whom he enjoyed traveling, working, exchanging thoughts and opinions and sharing challenges and successes. Ed’s deafness, “my only problem,” was a cruel burden, not just for him. A voracious reader and life-long learner, his intellectual curiosity and interest in ideas, “things” and world events remained strong even as cancer consumed all his energy. “Dying,” he said, “is not very exciting.”

Los Alamos sky

The eldest of eight, he was predeceased by his parents, Edward Theodore Grothus and Regina Hebinck Grothus, his son Theodore, his grandson Preston Edward Burns, and his brother Joseph Grothus. He is survived by Margaret, his wife of 57 years, his children Barbara Grothus of Albuquerque, NM; Tom Grothus (Wendy Slotboom) of Seattle, WA; Susan Burns of Albuquerque, NM; and Mike Grothus (Heidi) and their children, Casey and Michelle Grothus of Niwot, CO. He is also survived by three sisters, three brothers, and their extended families. Loved and admired by many, despised by a few, he will not soon be forgotten.

Ed Grothus and one of his ever-present bolos, 2006

Friends are visiting DeVargas Funeral Home at 623 N. Railroad Avenue in Espanola, NM from 1:00 to 5:00 on Sunday, February 15. There will be a private interment at Guaje Pines Cemetery. A public memorial service will be scheduled soon.

Peace begins in the heart. Life is short. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that you remember Ed by spending precious time with your loved ones.

Here's a video of Ed from last year that includes footage of his obelisks. And here's an article memorializing Ed from the Los Alamos Monitor.

Click on photos for larger images. Last photo by Telstar Logisitics. Check out more of their excellent photos of Ed and The Black Hole here. All other photos by M.E. Broderick, taken the weekend of August 6, 2005 during peace events in Los Alamos commemorating the 60th anniversary of the atomic bomb blast at Hiroshima. See her set here.

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February 15, 2009 at 03:21 PM in Current Affairs, Local Politics, Nuclear Arms, Power, Peace | Permalink | Comments (7)