2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: loc@icx.net
Date: 23 Jan 2003 21:34:17 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: RE: [CPEO-MEF] Risk-Based End State policy at Energy Department
In general, "A DOE Stakeholder of Long Standing" (DOE SLS) did an good
job of analyzing the "new & improved" Accelerated Cleanup Plan (although
I tend not to agree with many of the editorial asides).  There is one
inaccuracy, however.  According to a staff person at DOE HQ, the Office
of Long-Term Stewardship will not be merged with the Office of Worker &
Community Transition (WT).  Mike Owen, who currently manages WT, will be
reassigned to the new Office of Legacy Management (LM?).  This is the
type of reassignment of management duties that goes on all the time at
upper levels in DOE. LM will also deal with pension issues for workers
at closure sites and a few other miscellaneous problems that get left

Aside from having more autonomy regarding whether or not to accept
responsibility for a remediated site, LM will be at a higher level
within DOE and better able to compete for funding.  I don't think there
is any perfect solution to organizational problems, but I am cautiously
optimistic that this will allow a mechanism for long-term stewardship to
be addressed as EM concentrates more on its core work, with the goal of
working itself out of a job (I'm not holding my breath here).

In Oak Ridge, local stakeholders went through a detailed process of
determining what end uses of all the contaminated areas were likely and
reasonably able to be.  The End Use Working Group (EUWG) (open to any
interested person) studied and toured the sites, evaluated the type and
degree of contamination, and produced a series of recommendations for
end uses after remediation.  This was a key process in getting DOE off
of the endless EPA risk assessment merry-go-round where everytime a
cleanup level was proposed they had to run a risk assessment for all
possible uses.  DOE couldn't do any cleanup until there was regulatory
agreement, and the regulators didn't want to make the decision on
cleanup levels.  Let's face it--many of these sites will never be
suitable for residential use, yet DOE still had to consider it as part
of the process.

In conjunction with the end use process, the EUWG recognized that there
was no way all the contamination would be cleaned up.  Burial grounds
will be capped in place with groundwater controls, and cleanups of
publically accessible sites will proceed until a specified risk-based
level is reached.  So the second, and enduring, part of the process was
the Stewardship Working Group.  There have been two major
consensus-based reports so far, and participants have worked out
detailed recommendations for all parties involved.  Records maintenance,
continuing education of the public, involvement with local governments,
monitoring and maintenance, funding issues, and more are all addressed. 
These reports should be available on the Internet (unless the security
apparatus has rescinded them--a new and different problem).  

The moral of this story is that stakeholders in the community have a
responsibility to push DOE (or any other government agency) into doing
what the community wants.  In Oak Ridge we are fortunate to have many
retired Oak Ridge National Lab and other technical employees who have
strong scientific backgrounds and who are willing to devote a lot of
time and effort to these issues.  Many of these folks have been at it
for over a decade, and in fact represent the "corporate memory" that has
been lost due to transitions of site managers, new contractors, and
personnel layoffs.  They don't hesitate to remind the current managers
about their responsibilities for involving the public or the history of
any particular cleanup decision.  Indeed, although Oak Ridge has a
FACA-chartered SSAB and the state-funded Local Oversight Committee (with
a volunteer Citizens' Advisory Panel), the process allows for
involvement of unaffiliated citizens who want to work on specific

DOE SLS did make one other statement that needs to be addressed: "DOE
field staff continued seeking to elude cleanup requirements in many
cases."  I suspect that aside from a few bad apples within EM, problems
in this arena stemmed from lack of technical expertise with some
intractable contamination problems, inadequate budgets, lack of a
disposal pathway for excavated soils, tank or other wastes, and hostile
relations with regulatory agencies.  I have had many conversations with
EM and contractor staff at Oak Ridge who expressed intense frustration
at the bureaucratic issues that hampered them from making any progress. 
None the less, we have seen completed projects, and there is some hope
that leveling the management chain will remove some roadblocks. 

Is it perfect?  No, and the DOE cleanup effort never will be.  It
requires an enormous amount of money, and taxpayers have to decide how
high that priority is for a few sites in the country versus all the
other things they want the federal government to do.  There are also
many technical challenges that haven't been solved and there is
resistance to transportation and disposal of radioactive and mixed
wastes in some of the communities hosting disposal sites.  

Public trust will always be an issue, but the public needs to keep
coming to the table and should strive to be informed and realistic. 
I've found that many times DOE doesn't trust the public to have a
reasonable interaction--and who can blame them when you hear how some
activists harangue their local managers and make ugly personal
accusations or exaggerated claims of harm that aren't backed up by the
science.  Trust is a two-way street, and it is our responsibility as
stakeholders to work on establishing our own trustworthiness with
whatever agency we are trying to work with.


Susan Gawarecki, Executive Director
Oak Ridge Reservation Local Oversight Committee

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