Review of
"Final Community Relations Plan"
April 1995
Developed by
Dames and Moore, Sacramento, California
for the
Oakland Operations Office U.S. Dept. of Energy
and the
University of California, Davis

Submitted by

G. Fred Lee, PhD, DEE
Technical Advisor, DSCSOC
G. Fred Lee & Associates
El Macero, CA 95618-1005

June 1996

It states on page 1.1 that the Community Relations Plan (CRP) identifies community issues of concern regarding the LEHR site. From a review of the information presented on the objectives of this CRP, it appears that this is a DOE propaganda document that has little to do with real situations that have occurred at this site with respect to involving the public in issues.

With respect to the bulleted items listed on page 1.1, at the time of the development of the CRP there certainly had not been an accurate and timely flow of project information that was easily understood by the lay person as was claimed. In fact, until August 1995 there was a significant attempt by UCD - DOE to preclude the public from becoming involved in site investigation and remediation. While it is unclear as to the situation that existed between UCD and DOE with respect to whether UCD attempted to block DSCSOC's participation in RPM meetings as DOE's correspondence of last summer indicated, there is no question about the fact that DSCSOC had not been kept fully informed and involved in LEHR site activities and that while the situation has been corrected somewhat today, there are still significant behind-the-scenes decisions made that are pertinent to the public's interests that have not involved public participation.

If the public and their technical advisor had not taken an aggressive stance last summer toward becoming involved in RPM meetings, it is quite likely that the public would have been excluded from the decision-making processes involved with the LEHR site investigation and remediation except perhaps on an after-the-fact basis.

With respect to page 2.3 where it states in the last sentence that the site is not within the 100-year flood plain, it should be added that this is only because there is a levee that, as long as it is intact, prevents flooding of the LEHR site by Putah Creek. The LEHR site could readily be within the 100-year flood plain if it were not for this levee.

Page 2.4, first paragraph, states,

"Local drainage at the LEHR facility is generally to the south-southwest. Drainage in the south and southwest area is collected in a stormwater drainage system, routed to the LEHR stormwater lift station and subsequently pumped to the west side of Old Davis Road and discharged to Putah Creek."

This statement is not accurate and is not consistent with what is said in other documents about the handling of stormwater at the LEHR site. As I understand the discussions at the LEHR site RPM meetings and my personal observations, some stormwater drainage occurs to the southeast corner where it ponds and infiltrates into waste disposal areas, thereby potentially contributing to increased groundwater pollution. This should have been mentioned in the CRP if the CRP was a credible discussion of issues. Further, UCD through constructing the drainage channel through the top of Landfill 3 is bringing water from UCD property onto the LEHR site which then can transport hazardous and deleterious chemicals from the site to Putah Creek.

The discussion of the LEHR site stormwater drainage issues in the CRP is highly deficient and misleading.

Page 2.6, first full paragraph, mentions that the sludge that accumulated in the IMHOFF tanks was pumped to a tanker truck. What happened to that sludge? This is a crucial item that needs to be identified. As you know, I have asked the RPM's about this sludge several times and thus far UCD, DOE and the RPM's have failed to address this issue.

On page 2.6 in the third full paragraph, the CRP mentions the frequent failures of the radium-226 disposal system which involved discharge of radioactive waste to vertical dry wells. The CRP should have provided a discussion of what these failures meant to the dispersal of radium-226 and strontium-90 as well as other hazardous or deleterious constituents to the surface soils along Old Davis Road and to Putah Creek.

Further, it is not clear that there was no radioactive waste sent to the UCD campus wastewater treatment plant from the LEHR site. What happened to the sludge from that treatment plant? This should be identified since it may have contained radioisotopes that were used at the LEHR site.

The statement is made on page 2.7 under section 2.4.4. that "The wastes were reportedly disposed of in accordance with applicable regulations in place during the time." That statement is not reliable. There is ample documentation that in the state of California it was well-known in the professional literature that systems of the type that were adopted at the LEHR site for waste disposal would lead to environmental pollution. This is not a debatable point. It was found through work at the University of California, Berkeley in the 1950's that septic tank and cesspool waste disposal systems in the Central Valley would lead to groundwater pollution.

Further, independent of state of California literature, the American Society of Civil Engineers in their landfill guidance document of 1959 specifically discussed the potential for groundwater pollution associated with sanitary landfills.

Often regulatory structures are controlled by political considerations which allow pollution to occur. This is still occurring today in the Central Valley with respect to agricultural use of nitrogen fertilizers. The regulatory structure is not in place to prohibit the pollution of groundwaters by nitrate, yet there are Department of Health regulations that prohibit such pollution that could be used to require that farmers control the use of nitrogen fertilizers so that they do not pollute groundwater. The situation is that these regulations are not being implemented. This does not mean that they do not exist and that those who pollute the groundwaters with nitrate will not ultimately become liable for having to clean it up.

The situation is also still occurring today with respect to how the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board implemented Chapter 15 governing land disposal of wastes. These regulations were adopted in 1984. They explicitly require that the landfilling of solid wastes be conducted in such a way as to protect the groundwater from pollution (impaired use) by waste-derived constituents for as long as the wastes in the landfill represent a threat. The Regional Water Quality Control Board staff decided in the mid-1980's that the way in which that requirement would be implemented would be to assume that the minimum design requirements set forth in the regulations were equivalent to the overall groundwater protection standards set forth in the regulations, i.e. groundwater pollution protection for as long as the wastes represent a threat.

It was obvious at the time that this approach was technically invalid since then the regulations only required as a minimum design standard one foot of 10-6 cm/sec clay. Based on a simple Darcy's Law calculation, leachate would pass through that clay in less than one year. Recently the State Water Resources Control Board issued the latest SWAT results which show, as expected, that the Chapter 15 landfills which were constructed with only one foot of 10-6 cm/sec clay are polluting groundwaters.

The situation today is no better. Under the new Landfilling Policy, the minimum design requirement is the minimum Subtitle D design liner requirement of a single composite liner. There is no question that, in time, that system will fail to prevent leachate from passing through the liner and polluting groundwaters in the vicinity of the landfill.

The facts are that UCD and DOE knew or should have known that waste disposal practices that were conducted at the LEHR site in which radioactive and other wastes, including municipal solid waste (UCD campus waste), when placed in pits, disposed of by septic tanks or cesspools or placed in sanitary landfills would lead to groundwater pollution. The fact that there was a regulatory structure which prohibited this from occurring is not an issue. In California, it is the waste discharger's responsibility to protect public health and the environment.

The deficiencies in the way in which landfilling was allowed by the state regulatory agencies were ignored by UCD - DOE in their waste disposal practices at the LEHR site. UCD in its campus landfills and UCD - DOE in their disposal of radioactive and hazardous waste in various pits, trenches, cesspools, septic tanks, etc. practiced waste disposal at a cost which obviously did not consider the long-term consequences. What could have been relatively inexpensive to address at the time now has become a massive legacy that hangs over the university system, nearby property owners, the City of Davis and other communities, and people of California and the US.

It is clear that UCD and DOE chose an initially cheaper-than-real-long-term-cost option of choosing to dispose of the wastes in such a manner that now will cost the public, UCD and DOE many tens of millions of dollars to clean up the site. Because UCD and DOE did not avail themselves of and utilize the technical information that was readily available in the professional literature, should not be an excuse for now claiming that the disposal of wastes at the LEHR site was in accord with any regulations. It was not in accord with public health protection regulations. Further, it was not in accord with what was published in professional literature on what should have been done by a party conducting research of the type that was carried on at LEHR who had concern about long-term public health and environmental protection associated with waste management.

On page 2.8 mention is made that the sewage sludge from the adjacent sewage treatment plant was reportedly disposed of in the landfill and refers to a 1988 DOE document. The key issue that needed to be addressed from 1988 until the summer of 1995 was whether the sludge was dried before disposal there or was it disposed of wet. As it turned out, when DSCSOC representatives asked the RPM's about this treatment plant and its potential pollution of groundwaters at an RPM meeting in the summer of 1995, it was learned that DOE - UCD had decided that there was no need to investigate the sewage treatment plant as a possible cause of groundwater pollution at the LEHR site. This is an example of the number of the significant errors that were made by UCD and DOE in investigating LEHR site pollution from the late 1980's through 1995 when DSCSOC became involved.

Page 2.8, "Landfill Units," mentions the Solid Waste Assessment Test (SWAT) report prepared for UC Davis by Dames and Moore (1990). It is important to point out that this report clearly demonstrated that the UCD campus landfills were polluting groundwater in the late 1980's. It is now six years later and as of yet meaningful studies to determine the full extent and degree of pollution of groundwater by those three campus landfills has not yet been initiated. Little more is known now than was known in 1990 concerning this situation. Meanwhile, the pollutants in these landfills have continued to be transported out of the landfills as leachate down to HSU-2 and possibly into the second aquifer. This leachate-polluted groundwater in HSU-2 is moving laterally at a rate which is now estimated to be on the order of 1,000 feet per year.

UCD and, for that matter, the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board in accord with Article 5, Chapter 15 should have immediately initiated the requirements of Chapter 15 to further investigate and then begin remediation of that plume in 1990. This is another example of inappropriate or inadequate regulatory implementation of existing regulations. UCD has the obligation to implement Chapter 15. The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board has the obligation to see that this was done. Both failed to meet their obligations and thereby failed to protect public health, groundwater resources and the environment from UCD's waste disposal practices.

It is important to note that DOE staff (J. Littlejohn) have stated several times at RPM and other LEHR site meetings held during the past year that DOE was not aware that the SWAT results showed that the UCD landfills at the LEHR site were polluting groundwaters by hazardous chemicals. However, this situation is well-documented in DOE's literature, which evidently some DOE staff do not read.

On page 2.9 under the discussion of the dog pen waste management situation, no mention is made that radioactive and other wastes would have been carried into the soils under the dog pens by rainfall and in the summer during the spraying of the area with water whenever the temperatures were above about 90 degrees F. The spraying was done to keep the dogs cool.

Page 2.9 mentions the stormwater dry wells. Are these areas being investigated for contamination? They should be since even today's stormwater runoff from the LEHR site contains hazardous chemicals (chlordane) that could readily represent a threat to people who use fish taken from Putah Creek as food.

Another factor that should have been discussed as a source of pollution for Putah Creek is the fact that stormwater from the LEHR site is pumped to the current UCD wastewater treatment plant and thereby causes UCD's current wastewater discharges to have to be considered as part of the LEHR site-derived wastes which require in-depth monitoring. It still appears that DOE and UCD have not corrected the errors that were made in the summer of 1995 where, without public knowledge or review, a number of key monitoring parameters, such as ammonia, were deleted from those monitored in the current UCD wastewater treatment plant discharges. Evidently, these parameters were deleted because they were showing that UCD was violating its wastewater treatment plant permit discharge conditions and the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board's requirements of not discharging toxic substances in toxic amounts. As long as LEHR site stormwater is pumped to UCD's wastewater treatment plant, UCD's wastewaters have to be considered part of the LEHR site wastes. Further, the stormwater sampling at the LEHR site should include special sampling of the elevated flows that occur during stormwater runoff events that occur in the UCD wastewater treatment plant discharges to see if the additional hydraulic loading caused by the LEHR site stormwater pumped to the treatment plant contributes to pollution of Putah Creek by UCD's wastewater treatment plant discharges.

Page 2.10, "Wastewater Treatment Plant," in the second paragraph, mentions dried sludge from the old wastewater treatment plant. How was the sludge dried? In drying beds? If so, then this would likely have contributed ammonia which converts to nitrate. There could be a significant nitrate plume under the old drying beds.

Page 2.11, second paragraph, mentions a number of constituents that have been found in groundwaters and soils. In addition to those listed, there are a variety of other constituents that are pollutants at this site, impairing the use of groundwaters for domestic purposes. These should be mentioned. They include various unidentified organics, a variety of constituents which make up total dissolved solids, etc. These constituents are important and will have to be addressed as part of site clean-up in accord with California regulations.

Page 3.1 of this April 1995 document lists the population in Davis as approximately 46,000. According to the signs entering Davis, it is about 51,000.

On page 3.1, first paragraph, I am not sure what relevance this statement, "According to Davis residents, they consider themselves among the most educated in the United States." has to do with the LEHR site. Certainly, this wealth of abundance of education did not preclude massive pollution of soils and groundwaters by UCD.

Page 3.2, second paragraph, mentions that UCD and DOE have made an effort to keep local elected officials and participating representatives appraised of LEHR activities. That is a significant over-statement of what has really occurred unless this effort was done behind closed doors and did not involve the public.

Table 1 lists the IMHOFF treatment system. What is a "decontamination effluent?" Is it a decontaminated effluent or treated effluent? It appears to be the treated effluent, therefore the column is mislabeled. What happened to the backwash from the ion exchange resin columns? Where was this disposed of? Also, what happened to the sludge from the IMHOFF tank? These questions need to be raised with UCD, DOE and the RPM's.

Overall, I find that DOE's "Final Community Relations Plan" is largely a propaganda document that fails to discuss the issues that should be discussed in such a document. A credible community relations plan must include a more appropriate discussion of issues than this Plan. This Plan should be rejected by DSCSOC as being inappropriate, and UCD - DOE should be required to do a community relations plan that properly discusses the issues.

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