Activists appeal lab's waste permit

Saturday July 03, 1999

By Glenn Roberts Jr.

A Livermore-based watchdog group has appealed to a state regulatory agency in an effort to block a permit allowing a $32 million hazardous waste treatment facility at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory.

Physicians for Social Responsibility's San Francisco chapter also supports the appeal.

Marylia Kelley, director of Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment, said that she hopes the appeal will spur the state Department of Toxic Substances Control to conduct a more thorough environmental review.

She said the environmental report should provide an "in-depth analysis" of all hazardous waste operations at the lab -- to help protect the community, the lab's workers and the environment.

There should be more public involvement in the process, she added.

The state department approved the permit allowing treatment of a variety of hazardous materials, including some waste with low levels of radioactivity. The 10-year operating permit won't let the lab generate more waste.

Some waste operations in other areas of the lab will be consolidated if the permit is issued. The permit also will allow an existing lab building to be used for the storage of hazardous and "mixed waste," which includes low-level radioactive waste. Portions of another building would be used as a temporary waste storage area.

"We are not convinced that the treatments are the most benign possible," Kelley said. The appeal will give the state another chance to change the way the lab handles waste, she added.

Michael Veiluva, a Walnut Creek lawyer representing Tri-Valley CAREs, said the study prepared by the toxic substances department for the lab facility is "the slimmest environmental document that the law allows."

Ideally, the agency will reverse its decision and hold a public review; otherwise, the group may sue, he said.

Kelley said several accidents at the lab within the past three years highlight the dangers of handling hazardous waste. The problems may continue with the new plant unless a more thorough review is conducted, she said.

Ron Baker, a spokesman for the Department of Toxic Substances Control, said the deputy director for the department will consider the appeal and determine whether to issue the permit.

1999 by MediaNews Group