Comments on
Draft Data Needs for Detailed Evaluation of
Presumptive Remedial Actions at the
Laboratory for Energy-Related Health Research,
University of California, Davis
Dated October 1995

Submitted by

G. Fred Lee, Ph.D, D.E.E., DSCSOC Technical Advisor
G. Fred Lee & Associates
El Macero, CA 95618

November 20, 1995

In the spring of 1995, DOE and several of the RPMs for the LEHR national Superfund site developed a draft write-up covering so-called Phase 3 presumptive remedies for this site. Upon receipt of this draft Phase 3 presumptive remedies document by the DSCSOC last July, the author developed a set of comments to DSCSOC which, in turn, were passed on to the RPMs discussing the potential significant problems with several of the proposed remediation approaches, which if not resolved, could result in the DSCSOC and the public opposing the adoption of some of the proposed remedies. This opposition would be based on the fact that these approaches, such as an on-site RCRA landfill and a RCRA or less-than-RCRA cover of waste areas, would not protect public health and the environment from residual wastes proposed to be left at the LEHR site as part of site remediation for as long as these wastes represent a threat. The author has recently sent the RPMs, DOE and UCD a discussion of these issues which include references to the literature on the deficiencies in RCRA landfills and landfill covers.

In addition to discussing the deficiencies in the current US EPA RCRA landfilling approaches for providing public health and environmental protection from waste-derived constituents for as long as the wastes in the landfill represent a threat, these publications also provide discussions of how landfilling can, in fact, be accomplished at the LEHR site that would provide for true groundwater quality protection from further pollution by LEHR site associated wastes. While using basically the same types of liner and cover materials, these approaches require significantly different approaches with respect to financial assurance, monitoring and modes of operating and maintaining the landfill than is conventionally done with RCRA landfills.

At a previous RPM meeting, the author pointed out the importance of first defining the specific characteristics of the possible remediation approaches involving on-site waste storage. An important issue that the author raised previously that must be addressed as part of defining current data gaps is what regulatory requirements will apply to any on-site storage of wastes? Will UCD and DOE attempt to develop on-site waste storage and management that only temporarily slows down the rate of groundwater pollution? This is now permissible under US EPA RCRA landfilling approaches. The alternative is to adopt the state of California Water Resources Control Board Chapter 15 regulations which for Class 3 landfills require prevention of groundwater pollution - use impairment for as long as the wastes in the landfill represent a threat, or for Class 1 landfills prevent the leakage of waste-associated constituents to the underlying geological strata for as long as the wastes represent a threat.

It is the author's recommendation to DSCSOC, and the author believes DSCSOC's position, that the state of California Water Resources Control Board Chapter 15 regulations should be used as the basis for establishing waste management requirements at the LEHR site for both UCD - DOE wastes as well as the UCD wastes that are being managed separately. This issue can and should be resolved in the near future since it will set the stage for the development of on-site remediation approaches that DSCSOC and the public could support.

Specific Comments

On the bottom of page iii are a series of bulleted items. Areas that are missing from this listing are the performance criteria and post-closure care funding, monitoring and maintenance for on-site waste management facilities, such as capping the existing waste units, and the development of an on-site landfill for waste storage. The author recommends to DSCSOC that they not accept any on-site storage of wastes as a remediation measure unless there is adequate assured funding that on-site waste storage will, in fact, be reliably monitored and maintained for as long as the wastes in the storage unit are a threat.

Scope of the Remediation Program

Another of the bulleted items that has to be addressed as part of the site investigation and remediation is the issue of, will remediation of the LEHR site wastes be conducted in such a way as to conform to the state of California Water Resources Control Board standards for the control of all impairment of the groundwaters for use for domestic or other purposes? Specifically, will the investigation and remediation only address the so-called hazardous chemicals, or will it address all chemicals that impair the use of groundwater for its use for domestic or other purposes?

From the public's perspective, UCD and DOE mismanaged wastes at the LEHR site. These wastes consist of a variety of constituents, some of which are classified by current regulatory approaches as "hazardous." The state of California Water Resources Control Board regulations are concerned not only with the so-called hazardous chemicals, but also those that are considered deleterious to the beneficial uses of water. The author understand that DSCSOC and the public feel that the remediation of the LEHR site should address all pollution - impairment of use of the groundwaters that arose from past waste management practices at the site. The issue of the degree of remediation that will occur at the LEHR site needs to be resolved in the near future in order to define the data gaps that exist.

It is strongly recommended that UCD, DOE, the US EPA and DTSC, as well as the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, determine whether true public health, groundwater resource and environmental protection is to be achieved with any remediation approach adopted for the LEHR site with particular reference to any on-site management of waste. If this approach is adopted, it could be possible from the off-site public's perspective to develop on-site remediation approaches that involve leaving waste constituents at the site.

It is important that these issues be addressed and that policy be established now on the approaches that will be used in remediation of the site for any potential remediation approach. Once these decisions are made, then it will be possible to develop technically-valid, cost-effective approaches for remediation of the site that will be acceptable to the public. For example, there is little point in spending time discussing the potential of placing a RCRA or "less-than-RCRA" cap over a waste disposal area if that approach will not meet state of California regulations for protection of the groundwaters from pollution by waste-derived constituents for as long the wastes at the site represent a threat.

Reliability of PRG Values

Throughout the October 1995 draft data gaps report, comparisons are made between the concentrations of the constituents found associated with various waste management units to Region IX PRG values. It is important to understand, as discussed in the author's previous correspondence, that these PRG values do not consider some of the most important, if not the most important, mode of impact of the chemical constituents on the public namely leaching from the current location and transport to groundwater and then through the groundwater system off-site. These PRG values focus only on soil - waste ingestion, absorption through skin contact, and inhalation. The issue of leachability of constituents from the wastes and contaminated soils has thus far not been adequately considered in developing remediation approaches for the LEHR site.

Leachability of Wastes and Soils

While the Region IX considered modes of exposure are of some concern, they are in general of limited concern to the off-site public. They are more of a concern to current and future users of the LEHR site. The failure to consider leachability in assessment of data gaps is a very significant deficiency in the approaches being followed in the development of data needs associated with the LEHR site characterization. The leaching of constituents from the wastes and contaminated soils must be a high priority item in the assessment of the data needs for this site. Without it, technically-valid, cost-effective public health and environmentally protective remediation approaches cannot be developed.

Reliability of TCLP

At several locations in this draft write-up on data needs, mention is made of solidification/stabilization of wastes as a means of waste management unit remediation. Associated with the solidification/stabilization discussion is the mention of the use of TCLP procedures to determine the adequacy of solidification/stabilization. The author is highly familiar with various factors influencing the leaching (release) of chemical constituents from wastes and solids and the reliability of the EP TOX, and now TCLP tests, to evaluate the efficacy of waste remediation using solidification/stabilization approaches. The author has published extensively on this topic and can unequivocally state that the TCLP test is obviously not a valid test for determining whether constituents in a waste or contaminated soils have been sufficiently "fixed" - immobilized so that they do not represent future threats to public health, groundwater resources and the environment. The test conditions used in the TCLP test are not appropriate for evaluating the leachability of materials from the contaminated soils and wastes of the type that exist at the LEHR site.

The EP TOX, and now TCLP test, were developed by the US EPA as political tests designed to limit the size of the hazardous wastestream that must be managed as hazardous waste under RCRA. The US EPA's approach toward the interpretation of excessive leaching of allowing up to 100 times drinking water standards as being acceptable leaching is highly arbitrary and not necessarily protective of groundwater resources and public health. Further, this test only has applicability to wastes placed in a municipal solid waste landfill. It is not applicable to the leaching of wastes in the various pits, trenches and contaminated soils that exist at the LEHR site. As discussed in a paper entitled, "Application of Site-Specific Hazard Assessment Testing to Solid Wastes" (Lee and Jones, 1981), what must be done is to conduct a site-specific evaluation of the leachability of the constituents in the various waste matrixes and contaminated soils that properly simulate the leaching conditions that exist at the LEHR site as well as any solidified - fixed wastes that may be generated as part of site remediation. The TCLP test is not a valid test for assessing the leachability of the solidified wastes.

Unreliability of RCRA Landfills and Waste Covers

At several locations in this draft write-up, mention is made of the use of RCRA caps and RCRA landfills as possible remediation approaches for various waste management units. As discussed in previous correspondence and herein, it is the author's recommendation to the DSCSOC and the public to not accept any RCRA cover of a waste management unit in which there is any potential for the components of the wastes or contaminated soils to be leachable to a sufficient extent to be adverse to public health and/or groundwater quality from any perspective.

Part of the so-called data gaps focuses on geotechnical testing of the strata for suitability as the base for a RCRA cover and/or on-site RCRA landfill. There is little point in conducting such testing as part of filling data gaps unless better-than-RCRA waste management unit covers and/or on-site landfills are developed that would be acceptable to DSCSOC and the public and would conform to the state of California Water Resources Control Board's Chapter 15 requirements.

It would be highly inappropriate for UCD and DOE to continue to proceed with the development of RCRA waste management covers and an on-site RCRA landfill as a viable remediation approach for the LEHR site. This would represent a significant waste of time and funds and will lead to a confrontation with the DSCSOC and the public that will likely result in UCD and DOE having to implement the state of California Water Resources Control Board's Chapter 15 requirements for on-site management of wastes that do, in fact, have a high probability of protecting public health, groundwater resources and the environment from adverse impacts for as long as the wastes left at the LEHR site represent a threat.

Unreliable Cost Estimates

As discussed previously in information provided to the DSCSOC and RPMs, the cost of properly developed on-site proposed remediation approaches is significantly greater than the costs that were used in the draft Phase 3 write-up to estimate the cost of various possible remediation approaches for the LEHR site. A key component of any remediation approach is the establishment of a dedicated trust fund of sufficient magnitude to ensure that the waste cover and/or on-site landfill is operated, maintained and monitored as an effective waste management approach for as long as the wastes in the covered waste management unit and/or landfill represent a threat. The development and implementation of this approach is part of the cost of the remediation approach. To develop approaches without including this cost is technically invalid.

It is important that the DSCSOC aggressively work toward requiring that the state of California Water Resources Control Board's Chapter 15 regulations governing the management of solid wastes is used as the basis for any on-site waste management that is developed at the LEHR site. These regulations require for so-called non-hazardous waste no impairment of the quality of groundwaters at the point of compliance for groundwater monitoring which is the downgradient edge of the waste management unit for as long as the wastes in the waste management unit represent a threat. For most wastes, the wastes will be a threat effectively forever. For financial planning purposes, an infinite time period for potential threat should be used. If, at some time in the future, it is found that the wastes in the waste management unit are no longer a threat to groundwater quality - use impairment from any perspective including aesthetic quality, then adjustments in the monitoring and maintenance of the waste containment system - management system can be made. UCD and DOE should plan for ad infinitum waste management at the LEHR site for any on-site waste and contaminated soil management that is adopted as part of site remediation.

Radon Gas Issues

One of the areas that needs to be considered is the potential for radon gas migration associated with any radium 226 wastes. It is not clear to the author that radon gas accumulation and migration has been adequately considered as part of the data gaps that exist at the LEHR site.

Putah Creek Water Quality Issues

As the author has indicated in previous correspondence, there are significant data gaps with respect to past and current pollution of Putah Creek by LEHR site wastes that need to be addressed. Specific attention needs to be given to the Putah Creek situation by the RPMs in order to develop meaningful evaluation and monitoring programs for Putah Creek.

Overall Assessment

From an overall perspective, the Last, et al. Draft "Data Needs" report dated October 1995 provides a good start on developing data needs for various aspects of LEHR site remediation approaches. This write-up, however, falls far short of adequately and properly addressing the potential for leaching of constituents from the wastes and contaminated soils. Further, it does not provide adequate or reliable information on the potential for so-called solidification/stabilization of wastes as a remediation approach.

The majority of the identified data gaps in the Last, et al. draft report are appropriate and will need to be conducted independent of any on-site remediation approaches that may be proposed for the LEHR site. There are, however, significant data gaps with respect to identifying the degree of contamination that exists within each waste management unit for so-called hazardous as well as non-hazardous but deleterious constituents within the waste management unit and in associated soils that have been contaminated by these wastes. In addition to determining the concentrations of constituents at various locations as part of filling data gaps, it will be important to appropriately determine the leachability - tendency for migration of these constituents through the vadose zone through the groundwater system underlying the LEHR site.

Questions on these comments and requests for additional information on the deficiencies in RCRA covers and landfills should be brought to G. Fred Lee's attention.


Lee, G. F. and Jones, R. A., "Application of Site-Specific Hazard Assessment Testing to Solid Wastes," In: Hazardous Solid Waste Testing: First Conference, ASTM STP 760, ASTM, pp331-344 (1981).

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