2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: 16 May 2003 16:34:22 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Air Force challenges draft TCE assessment
As we have reported many times earlier, the Department of Defense has
been challenging toxicity assessments that suggest stringent drinking
water and cleanup standards for perchlorate. It appears that the
Department is also beginning to challenge U.S. EPA's draft toxicity
assessment for trichloroethylene (TCE), findings that some regulators
are using to call for more protective measures at contamination sites in
California and Colorado.

Below I have pasted key sections of a February 1, 2003 letter from the
Air Force Real Property Agency (AFRPA) to the Colorado Department of
Public Health and the Environment, regarding cleanup standards as they
apply to several parcels at the former Lowry Air Force Base, in Denver.

Under our adversarial regulatory system, the Air Force apparently has
the "right" to question cleanup standards that might force it to pay
substantially more for characterization and remediation, but if so,
there is something wrong with that system. U.S. EPA and its Science
Advisory Board are supposed to conduct neutral studies, and their
results are subject to comments from responsible parties, such as the
Air Force, and the affected public - presumably including people who
favor more stringent standards. 

However, it's in the financial interest of responsible parties to spend
large sums of money challenging scientific findings that are likely to
require more cleanup. That is, it's cheaper to weaken the standards than
to do the extra work. 

There is no countervailing financial interest on the other side. That
is, the people who want stricter standards don't have anywhere near the
resources available to the Air Force and other polluters. This imbalance
must be corrected.

I am further concerned that, beyond the imbalance in resources, that
federal responsible parties also have the political clout, within the
executive branch, to interfere with the standard-setting process. This
is what they've done with perchlorate, through the White House's Office
of Management and Budget, and undoubtedly they're ramping up to
challenge the new TCE findings, findings which could also add billions
of dollars to cleanup costs, not only for the Defense and Energy
Departments, but for private parties as well.

To me, this is like having the Defense attorney also be the jury.
Polluters should have no inside track in the standard-setting process.
It is not the mission of the Defense Department to set science-based
environmental standards. If the Defense Department fails to recognize
that, Congress should direct it to stop challenging efforts to protect
the American public and environment simply because that would cost the
military money.


"As you may know, the Department of Defense (DoD) officially disagrees
with the conclusions and methodologies used by the EPA National Center
for Environmental Assessment (INCEA) in preparing its draft TCE health
risk assessment study from which NCEA derived the provisional slope
factors. If you desire a copy of the DoD comments on the study, we will
provide it to you. We also understand that the Science Advisory Board
(SAB) has a multitude of concerns and comments on the draft study, and
NCEA is in the process of addressing those comments. Even EPA Region
VIII staff has acknowledged that the SAB comments are significant and
that NCEA still has much to do to address SAB's concerns. We believe
that using invalid draft toxicity criteria that is subject to change
because it is still undergoing scientific review is unwise and

"Pending resolution of the scientific validity of the NCEA draft study,
AFRPA and our risk assessment experts at the Air Force Institute for
Environment, Safety and Occupational Health Risk Analysis (AFIERA) have
consistently tried to accommodate CDPHE's concerns with the risk
assessment by agreeing to use additional, extremely conservative
exposure assumptions. The accommodations included using groundwater
consumption as an exposure pathway (which is highly unlikely), using an
assumption that groundwater might be used to irrigate lawns and
homegrown fruits and vegetables, and using historical maximum
groundwater concentrations rather than a statistical evaluation of the
most recent groundwater concentration data."

(excerpted from "Re: EPA's New Draft Trichloroethylene (TCE) Assessment
(2001) Lowry AFB, Denver, Colorado," a letter from Gene A. Apfsky,
Acting Program Manager, Air Force Real Property Agency to Jeff Edson,
Manager, Remediation and Restoration Unit, Colorado Department of Public
Health and the Environment Hazardous Materials and Waste Management
Division. February 1, 2003)


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

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