2000 CPEO Military List Archive

From: rama@accutek.com
Date: Mon, 13 Mar 2000 10:23:20 -0800 (PST)
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Sierra Army
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Felicia Marcus
Regional Administrator
U.S. E.P.A.
75 Hawthorne Street
San Francisco, CA  94105-3901

RE: Sierra Army Depot Hazardous Waste Facility Permit

Dear Ms. Marcus,

We are writing to express our extreme concern about human health and
environmental protection regarding the Open Burn/ Open Detonation (OB/OD)
of munitions  at the Sierra Army Depot (SIAD),  located in Herlong,
The Washoe County District Health Department and the Nevada Division of
Environmental Protection have been stressing this concern with both the
Army and the State of California for some years. In response to these
concerns, we are requesting that the US EPA address the following issues:

We are requesting a determination from your office on the acceptability of
SAID current and proposed actions from OB/OD of munitions at SAID. Due to
the complexities involved with a federal agency, SIAD, environmental
contamination of  a neighboring state and Indian Tribe we are requesting EPA
oversight and moderation of this regionally significant proposal.

Current OB/OD methods of munitions disposal at Sierra Army Depot creates a
toxic smoke plume that disperses into Washoe County, NV and directly impacts
the Pyramid Lake Paiute Indian Reservation1  and the region. Toxic and
carcinogenic chemicals dispersed include, but are not limited to: lead,
mercury, arsenic, antimony, beryllium, cadmium, nickel, and dioxins.  The
Army is currently required to conduct OB/OD operations when the wind is
blowing in an easterly direction, towards the Pyramid Lake Paiute
Reservation and Nevada,  in order to avoid the larger population centers in
Lassen County 2.

The California Department of Toxic Substances(DTSC) has found that current
OB/OD operations have had a significant impact on human health, plants,
animal resources, soil concentrations of metals, ephemeral streams, ground
water, ambient air quality, and water quality of Pyramid Lake3.  According
to Army officials  for the past 10 years 24,000 to 28,000 tons per year of
munitions have been detonated or burned in the open air. In 1995 alone 53
millions pounds of military explosives  and 200 rocket motors were
detonated or burned at the Depot.4.

Due to the severity of impacts, including the long term cumulative impacts
of over 20 years of OB/OD operations at the Depot, we are formally
requesting that continuous  air monitoring be mandated for all OB/OD
operations currently allowed at the Sierra Army Depot. The quarterly reports
be submitted to the NV District Board of Health. Actually sampling must be
done in  addition to the computer modeling in the Ecological Risk
Assessment 5 to validate model claims.   We are also requesting monitoring
sites be agreed upon by the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection,
the Washoe County District Health Board and the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.
We acknowledge that soil and stream sediment samples were taken for the
Ecological Health Risk Assessment6.  However, no air and or water samples
were taken. Nor have any permanent air monitoring facilities been
established impacted downwind sites in order to determine the significant
impacts or potential violations of air quality regulations. This monitoring
would provide additional assurance to the State, Tribe,  the County and
local residents.

We are  alarmed  by  preliminary information of elevated cancer rates on
the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation and in Lassen County.  There is concern
these elevated cancer rates are due to the toxic chemicals of the smoke
plume from OB/OD operations at SIAD.  We are extremely concerned that the
DTSC  has ignored the cumulative long term health risks associated with
OB/OD operations at the Depot and question DTSC's claim that Since induced
cancer has approximately a 20 year latency period, any reports of cancers
which were detected between 1994 through the present in all likelihood can
not be related to the current operations at the facility, which began
treating large quantities of explosives only in the past several years. 7
Our research indicates that OB/OD operations have been occurring at the
Depot for over 20 years. The Army was granted interim status by DTSC in
1981.   Therefore, the 20 year latency period for cancer is upon us.  We
are requesting an epidemiology study  for the downwind communities in
Nevada, including the Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation, and the impacted
region.  We believe the Army should pay for this study, and that members of
the Tribe, as well as elected representatives from both Washoe and Lassen
Counties should participate in the studies.  We believe these studies must
be conducted independent of the Army and DTSC.

We are requesting that an investigation by EPA on alternative technologies
to OB/OD for the disposal of munitions be considered prior to issuing of any
permits. Does EPA advocate the use of alternative technologies to OB/OD?
The Nevada Division of Environmental Protection(NDEP) has questioned
DTSC's 8 response in the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) which
states that alternative technologies are not yet available to Sierra Army
(SAID)9.  NDEP commented, The statement that alternative technologies are
not available suggests that such alternatives are nonexistent.

This would include the Western Area Demilitarization Facility (WADF) at
Hawthorne, NV and all alternative technologies presented at the 7th Global
Demil Symposium10.  In addition, at least one manufacturer has designed a
blast chamber that is capable of containing explosions of munitions with
1,000 pounds of net explosive weight or a bomb weighing over 2,000 pounds.
Such chambers are capable of containing the explosions of most, if not all,
of the munitions disposed by the Army at the Sierra Army Depot.
Furthermore,  establishment of several alternative technologies at the Depot
would assure no loss of jobs at the Depot and would  provide an opportunity
for increased employment at both the Hawthorne and Sierra Army Depots.

Has EPA and DTSC taken any substantial actions to implement alternatives
technologies to OB/OD at the SIAD?  Is the OB/OD conducted at the Sierra
Army Depot violating  California's hazardous waste regulations11  because
other modes of treatment do exist for safely disposing munitions?

California's hazardous waste regulations (California Code of Regulations,
Title 22 C.C.R.  Section 66265.382)  allows the open burning/open
detonating of  "waste explosives," but only if the waste explosives "cannot
safely be disposed of through other modes of treatment."

We must express our disappointment that DTSC has  relied solely on the Army
to describe the process for evaluation of alternatives to OB/OD and
incineration.12   We believe DTSC improperly attempts to address the call
for alternatives technologies by requiring that the Army submit a
certification for the evaluation of alternative treatment technologies
every year after they grant the 10 year permit13 .

The Washoe County Commission14  and the District Health Department15  in
1995 passed resolutions requesting that SIAD follow the provisions of the
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). To date we have not received
NEPA documentation on the past, current, or proposed OB/OD operations at SIAD.
This is especially crucial to Nevadans since the CEQA does not apply to
activities which impact Nevada.  In your letter to us16  states, In the
case of federal actions, public disclosure is required by the National
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)17 the letter continued, 8A we understand
that the Army intends to prepare and Environmental Assessment (EA).  We
believe that there is substantial environmental controversy concerning the
proposed action which warrants the preparation of a Full EIS.

We note the incremental increase of activities at the SIAD facility in
recent years, including an increase OB/OD, increased demilitarization of
obsolete NATO munitions18,  the burning of solid rocket fuel motors19  and
the demil of non-military munitions20 .  We have not been supplied NEPA
documentation for any of these activities. Has EPA received NEPA
documentation for these activities?   If so, did EPA  determine both the
completeness and adequacy of the documents?

Another particular concern regarding public participation is  the SAID
request for  modification21 of the permit to include handling, storage and
thermal treatment of non-military munitions waste22.  This was done without
public notice or the opportunity to provide scoping comments on the
significant impacts23  which could occur.  Additionally, these impacts
could not have been addressed in the Ecological Risk Assessment24  which was
completed prior to the request for modification.  Because of this we
believe the Ecological Risk Assessment may be inadequate.

We are also concerned about the Environmental Justice issues surrounding the
contamination of sovereign Indian lands by OB/OD operations at the Sierra
Army Depot.  Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation is home to the endangered
cui-ui fish.  The DEIR found that water quality standards were predicted to
be exceed for two metals, aluminum and copper25. To date, no Section 7
consultation  required by the Endangered Species Act has occurred with the
governing authority of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.

California law requires that the Army hold a permit to treat or dispose of
hazardous waste.  California Health and Safety Code 25201(a). Although the
Army has been conducting OB/OD, a form of hazardous waste treatment and
disposal, at Sierra Army Depot for over twenty years, the Army does not yet
hold a hazardous waste permit.

In 1981, the Army was granted "interim status," which authorized the Army to
conduct the OB/OD without a permit for a limited period of time.  However,
the Army's interim status authorization automatically expired on November
8, 1992.  See, Health and Safety Code 25200.5(i). Are the continued OB/OD
operations at Sierra Army Depot are in violation of California law? If,
not please supply us with a  copy of SIAD's current hazardous waste permit.

We anticipate your prompt response to these concerns and requests. Please
contact us at 775-677-7001 if you have any further questions.


Grace Potorti
Executive Director
Rural Alliance for Military Accountability
P.O. Box 60036
Reno, NV 89506

Bob Fulkerson
Executive Director
Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada
1101 Riverside Drive
Reno, NV  89503

Cathy Lemar
Executive Director
Military Toxic Project
P.O. Box 558
Lewiston, ME 04243

Saul Bloom
Executive Director
ARC Ecology
942 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

Laura Olah, Executive Director
Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger
E12629 Weigand's Bay South
Merrimac, WI 53561

Marge Sill
Public Lands Coordinator
Sierra Club
720 Brookfield Dr.
Reno, NV 89503

Kaitlin Backlund
Executive Director
Citizen Alert
P.O. Box 5339
Reno, NV 89513

Dan L. Alstott
The AuSable Manistee Action Council
6726 Hawthorn Trail
Grayling, MI 49738

Charles Watson
Executive Director
Nevada Outdoor Recreation Association
P.O. Box 1245
Carson City, NV 89702

Tom Myers, Director
Great Basin Mine Watch
P.O. Box 10262
Reno, NV  89510=20

Karyn J. Jones
P. O. Box 1693
Hermiston, OR 97838

Ed McGlinn
The Anglers of the AuSable
The Riverwatch
29933 Barwell
Farmington Hills, MI  48334

Steve Erickson
961 East 600 S.
Salt Lake City, Utah  84102

Nevada Congressional Delegation
Senator Barbara Boxer, California
Senator Dianne Feinstein, California
Governor Kenny Guinn, NV
Governor Gray Davis, CA
Winston H. Hickox, Secretary for Environmental Protection, CA
Carol Browner, Administrator, US EPA
Allen Biaggi, Director, Nevada Division of Environmental Protection
Sherri Wasserman Goodman, Deputy Under Secretary for the Environment
Ken Smith, Air Pollution Control Officer, Lassen County
Lloyd Keefer Lessen County Board of Supervisors
Center for Disease Control
Washoe County Commission
Randall Todd, Nevada State Epidemiologist
Robert Abbey, Director,  Nevada Bureau of Land Management
William Cohen, Secretary of Defense
Ed Lowry, Director DTSC
Running Grass, CMD, EPA Region 9
Craig E. Hooks, Director Federal Facilities Enforcement Office, US EPA
Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of the Interior
Senator Dean Rhoads, Chairman, NV Legislative Committee on Public Lands

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