2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: petestrauss1@attbi.com
Date: 21 Jan 2003 14:47:16 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: Re: [CPEO-MEF] Risk-Based End State policy at Energy Department
This policy initiative has some appealing and some very unappealing aspects.
The most appealing is that the debate will shift towards end-use, not the
endless series of documents and revisions of documents.  But here's the rub:
end use,  as I see it at most large DOE sites and many other federal
facilities assume that the federal government will remain the steward of the
site, and the use is not assumed to be much different than it is now.  There
are some exceptions, but it is borne out by DOE's Long-Term Stewardship

For example, as a Technical Advisor to Tri-Valley CAREs, it has long
recommended that DOE assume that future use of Site 300 (for those
unfamiliar, an 11-square mile high explosives test site operated by Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratory) be a multiple use area supporting ecological
preserves, recreation, industrial, commercial and residential uses.  We
realize that some small areas will never be cleaned up to support any of
these uses and that these will have to be controlled. If Tri-Valley CARE's
position  were adopted, the end-use risk levels would be far different than
risk levels at a facility with continued DOE operations.

Another example (a non-DOE site) is one we've heard so much about through
this listserve: Moffett Field.  Site 25 as it is known, is currently a
wetland area that is used as a storm-water retention basin.  The Navy and
the current landlord had insisted for years that this would be its future
use and clean-up levels were designed for this use. The community wanted
increased clean-up levels that would support opening up this wetland to the
influence of San Francisco Bay. Through a series of fortuitous events, a
strong showing by the community,  combined with pressure by the community to
conduct further characterization, NASA seems to have changed its mind, and
is contemplating an end-use (and clean-up levels) asked for by the
community.  This is a major accomplishment.  Unfortunately, it is probably
very rare that the government has changed its mind about land-use
assumptions.  At Moffett, if the Navy had had its way two years ago when it
proposed cleaning up the wetland to support continued operation as a storm
water retention pond, the intervening developments would have been

Both of these examples illustrate the importance and possible pitfalls of
what DOE poses as a primary question that will guide clean-up - what is the
future end-use.  I would argue that the "future" should be given a very
broad interpretation.

Peter Strauss
----- Original Message -----
From: "Lenny Siegel" <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
To: "Military Environmental Forum" <cpeo-military@igc.topica.com>
Sent: Friday, January 17, 2003 11:19 AM
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Risk-Based End State policy at Energy Department

> The Office of Environmental Management at the U.S. Department of Energy
> has been privately circulating drafts of two documents, a Policy and a
> Guidance, designed to change the way the Department meets its cleanup
> obligations. On the surface, some of the concepts in these documents
> sound good. In practice, however, implementation could mean the
> large-scale adoption of containment remedies at locations where
> treatment or removal might better protect public health and the
> The Policy, "Cleanup Driven by Risk Based End States," explains, "The
> single most significant change that we can make is to focus the program
> on goals that are clearly articulated and technically defensible and
> achievable. Those goals must be grounded in where we want to be at the
> end of the cleanup effort, and not on interim milestones or conditions
> that are continually subject to change."
> The Policy continues, "When the drive to achieve risk-based end states
> characterizes the Department's site assessment, remedy selection and
> actions to assure long-term protectiveness, the cleanup program will
> complete its work quicker, safer and more efficiently.... The approach
> may cause a re-evaluation of, and changes to, current regulatory
> agreements/documents (such as Federal Facility Agreements) and
> compliance agreements."
> The documents call for the development of a "risk-based end state
> vision," in consultation with regulators, Tribal Nations, and other
> stakeholders. Then site officials are to "redesign their cleanup
> activities to achieve that vision." The Policy compares the new
> initiative to other efforts such as Risk-Based Corrective Action,
> Brownfields, and U.S. EPA's One Cleanup Program Initiative.
> ***
> I have long believed that federal cleanup programs that move from
> documentary milestone to documentary milestone fail to see the forest
> for the trees. As some in the Air Force suggest, it makes sense to
> "begin with the end in mind."
> But massive, complex, and secretive nuclear weapons plants are not ideal
> candidates for risk-based cleanup. They are not like gas stations,
> plating shops, or drum collection sites.
> Remedies that focus on interrupting pathways tend to be successful where
> the risk is minor in the first place, migration is unlikely, or the
> hazard can be expected to attenuate on its own. At major nuclear weapons
> facilities, however, long-lived radionuclides, massive solvent plumes,
> and unknown or unusual contaminants are likely to remain in place for a
> very long time. Remedies that contain contaminants, stabilize them, or
> interrupt pathways may in places be unavoidable, but in general they
> will be continuously at risk of catastrophic breakdown.
> The Energy Department Policy barely recognizes this challenge: "When
> contaminants are expected to persist but can be isolated, risk concepts
> should include effective and transparent institutional controls to
> maintain isolation. Long term monitoring and surveillance methods must
> be designed to assure that the contaminants remain sequestered and human
> health and the environment are protected."
> Long-term monitoring is essential, to be sure, but monitoring can only
> predict or discover the breakdown of remedies. The Energy Department
> must continue to explore better ways to treat and control contamination
> to minimize the chance of failure. Over the life of its contaminants,
> people and ecosystems are likely to be exposed, so remedies should deal
> with the hazards, not just the pathways. Even in areas declared
> "national sacrifice zones" because there is apparently no way to
> eliminate the hazards, active cleanup should continue.
> Developing cleanup strategies based upon an end-state vision is a good
> idea, as long as that vision is not based upon ignoring serious,
> persistent hazards because there is no significant immediate risk.
> Lenny
> --
> Lenny Siegel
> Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
> c/o PSC, 278-A Hope St., Mountain View, CA 94041
> Voice: 650/961-8918 or 650/969-1545
> Fax: 650/961-8918
> <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
> http://www.cpeo.org
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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