December 14, 1996
Julie Roth, Exec. Director
Route 2, Box 2879
Davis, CA 95616
I wish to follow up on the October 31, 1996 UCD - DOE LEHR national Superfund site RPM meeting to provide DSCSOC with some comments on key issues I feel need to be considered.
DOE 10-Year Plan
At the meeting, Susan Field indicated that DOE was interested in receiving comments on ts draft "Environmental Management 10-Year Plan" dated July 31, 1996. From my perspective, when I looked over the Plan, I found essentially the same kind of information in the July version as the one I reviewed last spring. As I commented then, plans of this type have limited reliability in situations where sites are as poorly characterized as the LEHR site. As you know, at the past couple of RPM meetings, significant new hazardous and radioactive waste sources have been found which were not known before. Previously, these various pits, etc. were thought to contain rather benign wastes. Now it has been found that both UCD and LEHR have buried large numbers of bottles of apparently mixed (radioactive and hazardous) wastes at many locations.
This situation is exemplified by the DOE box content where, until the last RPM meeting, we were told the DOE box was of limited significance with respect to containing hazardous and radioactive waste. At this meeting, however, we were informed that a large number of bottles of wastes were buried under the tree located near the box.
As it stands now, unless UCD and DOE are willing to commit to removal to background all wastes and contaminated soils at the LEHR site, it is too early to reliably plan for site investigation, much less remediation. We need to know more about the site than we know now before such planning can be done in a meaningful way.
As you and I discussed, I am concerned about the statement in this draft DOE 10 Year Plan which states,
"Negotiations with regulators have been proceeding at optimal. However, the demands of some surrounding landowners and local activists (stakeholders) remain unreasonable. If these unreasonable demands cannot be addressed satisfactorily, DOE/OAK may have to resort to dispute which would impact the present schedule."
This statement appears to be another of Jim Littlejohn's statements where he makes superficial comments about issues without proper review of the facts. Often his statements reflect a lack of knowledge on the topic area. In this case, since DOE-Oakland is accusing the public of impeding the investigation and remediation of this site by making "unreasonable demands," I feel it is essential that DOE-Oakland management be required to specifically define what issues justify this statement. The only demands/requests DSCSOC has issued are that the site be properly investigated and properly remediated as soon as possible.
DSCSOC has also requested, I suppose this can be considered a demand, that DOE place the highest priority on investigating those issues that are of greatest concern to the off-site public, namely the extent of off-site groundwater pollution and the potential impacts of hazardous and radioactive wastes present in the stormwater runoff from the LEHR site on Putah Creek water quality be reliably investigated. DSCSOC has made it clear they are not going to tolerate continued lack of attention to off-site groundwater pollution and continued waste of public funds in collecting data on stormwater runoff that does not address the issues that have to be addressed to determine whether excessive concentrations of constituents are present in stormwater runoff to be adverse to the beneficial uses of Putah Creek.
It is possible the DOE authors of this statement are referring to the fact that DSCSOC has made it known it will not accept a superficial, temporary remediation approach at the LEHR site such as that which would be achieved by DOE's suggested proposed minimum RCRA and "something less-than-RCRA" covers for waste management units and/or landfills that would be constructed at the LEHR site. As I have pointed out, such an approach would not conform to WRCB Chapter 15 requirements of preventing further groundwater pollution by constituents in the waste management units for as long the wastes would be a threat. If DOE-Oakland management feels it is inappropriate to develop permanent, reliable, on-site management of wastes at the LEHR site, then DSCSOC should know this now so the public can address these issues with appropriate federal and state regulatory authorities.
I am afraid that DOE-Oakland may be playing a game of not committing to clean-up objectives and defining appropriate degrees of remediation with the hope they would spring this on the public later and not give the public adequate time to address these issues. As you know, I have repeatedly suggested, and DSCSOC has requested several times, that clean-up objectives for the site be defined now. I still do not understand, and I know many others agree, how it is possible to investigate a site without defining clean-up objectives since the degree of investigation depends on the objectives selected. There is no justification for not defining the clean-up objectives at this time and then conduct investigations accordingly.
The other issue to address in this matter is what does DOE mean by "dispute which could slow down...?" DSCSOC needs specific clarification of what DOE-Oakland means by "resort to dispute." Does DOE-Oakland plan, without telling anyone, to not follow DOE Order No. 5400.1 with respect to meeting local regulatory requirements? Some time ago, per my suggestion, DSCSOC asked J. Littlejohn about this issue. To my recollection, DSCSOC never received a response that specifically addressed whether DOE plans, in accord with DOE Order No. 5400.1, to meet local clean-up requirements for polluted groundwaters, soils, etc.
Prior to being transferred to another site, J. Littlejohn left the legacy of the July 31, 1996 10-Year Plan in which he accuses the public of interfering with DOE's investigation and clean-up of the site. This must be addressed and resolved. You have raised these issues in your letter of November 4, 1996 to Susan Fields regarding the appropriateness of the July 31, 1996 10-Year Plan. If DOE-Oakland management does not address these issues in the near future, then I suggest DSCSOC contact DOE-Washington, D.C. management to clarify these issues and put a stop to the irresponsible statements that were made in the draft Plan regarding the public interfering with LEHR site investigation and remediation.
I feel DOE-Oakland management must specifically define the issues of concern they feel justify their statement in their 10-year plan regarding the public interfering with LEHR site investigation and remediation. If they refuse to do so, then DSCSOC should contact DOE-Washington, D.C. to ask for clarification on this issue. I think it is time to put a stop to this low-level bureaucratic approach of trying to place blame on the public for DOE's inability to get organized with respect to properly investigating and remediating the LEHR site.
Recently one of the professional magazines carried a review by Al Alm, Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management, US Department of Energy, which discusses DOE's 10 year plan for environmental restoration. Enclosed is a copy of this discussion. I wish to mention I know Mr. Alm. In the early 1970's, he served as one of the top staff members for the President's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). At that time, I was an advisor to the CEQ on how to screen chemical use for potential environmental impacts. This work led to President Nixon proposing the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) which was adopted by Congress in the late 1970's. I worked closely with Mr. Alm in helping to formulate the overall approach that was used in TSCA. I was also involved with him in the CEQ review devoted to developing a national policy for phosphate control as part of managing the excessive fertilization of the nation's waters. If we cannot get DOE-Oakland to cooperate, if you wish I can discuss these issues with Mr. Alm.
LEHR Site Investigations
At the October 31, 1996 RPM meeting, DOE representatives provided a summary of their ecent work at the LEHR site which included finding 72 bottles of chemicals (potential mixed wastes) retrieved from the DOE box area. It is not clear to me whether they were in the DOE box or just in that area. This situation, coupled with last month's RPM meeting revelation that UCD has been burying bottles of radioactive and hazardous wastes in the various pits constructed at the LEHR site, causes concern with respect to whether there is any point in conducting further studies and attempting to characterize the wastes in these various pits and trenches. There appears to be little likelihood that the pits and trenches can be considered benign, i.e. no potential for future groundwater pollution. The studies that have been conducted thus far clearly indicate none of the disposal pits and trenches can be considered areas that can be left at the site or even areas that would be suitable for a RCRA or "less-than-RCRA" cover. It appears now that all pits and trenches and possibly the LEHR site landfills will have to excavated, properly characterized, and removed from the site. It will likely be more expensive to do the studies to try to justify not completely removing the wastes in these areas than to proceed directly with their removal for off-site management.
It is now clear that rather than wasting public funds in a facade remediation program involving the removal of a concrete vault associated with the former septic tank system in order to demonstrate that DOE-Oakland is, in fact, "remediating" the site, DOE and UCD should get on with specifically characterizing the wastes in the various pits and trenches to a sufficient degree so these wastes, which are likely mixed wastes, can be removed from the LEHR site for off-site management.
At the October 31, 1996 RPM meeting again mention was made of six dog pen pedestals which were found off-site. Subsequently, they were shipped to Hanford. This situation is of great concern since it means that those responsible for managing waste materials at LEHR somewhat indiscriminately dump materials off-site. This leads to the question of what else has been dumped off-site.
During the meeting, Duncan Austin picked up on the issue I raised at the Town Meeting of what happened to the sludges from the various waste management units. Were they, as Ralph Virgin suggested, hauled to local farms? If the dog pen pedestals, which certainly contained some radioactive wastes, were dumped along the road on the south side of Putah Creek, there is no reason to believe similar practices with sludges and other materials from LEHR were also managed in a inappropriate manner.
DOE Waste Characterization Studies. At the October 31, 1996 RPM meeting, Weiss Associates presented some results of the waste characterization studies in which they compared the results for the various samples of wastes and soils that they investigated to a "95% confidence level for background in the region." Duncan Austin justifiably raised questions about the appropriateness of using 95% background confidence interval, rather than a much more conservative-protective approach. Duncan specifically asked for information on how reliably the background has been determined at this site and the appropriateness of using the upper 95% confidence interval for the background as a measure of what represents excessive concentrations of constituents in soils and waste management units. This issue should be addressed by DOE since it is of concern to DSCSOC as well.
Weiss Associates also continued the practice of comparing concentrations of constituents in various wastes and soils associated with waste management units to PRG values. As I have repeatedly discussed, PRG values are not appropriate values for addressing issues associated with groundwater pollution. They are also not necessarily appropriate for surface water pollution issues such as stormwater runoff to Putah Creek. According to D. Austin, the US EPA has recently released PRG values that consider groundwater pollution issues. I specifically requested a copy of these values be made available and, in particular, information on how they were developed. Thus far I have not received this information. From my many years of work on the transport of constituents in saturated and unsaturated groundwater systems, I know it will be extremely difficult to develop reliable PRG values for constituents in wastes and soils with respect to their potential to pollute groundwaters. Once I receive the information from D. Austin, I will provide comments to DSCSOC on their reliability.
One of the constituents of great concern at the LEHR site is chlordane. The PRG values listed by Weiss Associates do not consider the most important route by which chlordane could be adverse to public health, namely in surface water runoff and its bioaccumulation in off-site fish tissue which causes the fish to be hazardous (a source of carcinogens) when used as human food. As a result of bioaccumulation, chlordane could be far more hazardous than would be indicated by the PRG values.
The finding of large numbers of plastic bottles with hazardous and radioactive wastes in them in various disposal pits and trenches again raises the issues of the characteristics of the soils around the plastic bottles. If these soils are oxic, i.e. contain dissolved oxygen, then there is a well-defined mechanism for degradation of the plastics involving free radical scission of the polymer chains. In time, all plastics will degrade, especially under oxic conditions. The situation under anoxic conditions is less well understood. There is growing evidence that there is a degradation mechanism under these conditions as well .
UCD Investigations of Off-Site Groundwater Pollution
At this RMP meeting, UCD representatives reported on the results of the recently conducted studies of the off-site groundwater pollution to the east of the LEHR site. I understand the RPM's forced UCD to get on with DSCSOC's requested investigations of the extent and magnitude of off-site groundwater pollution at the LEHR site. There were two important issues that came out of the last RPM meeting regarding these investigations. One of these is that, according the hydropunch study conducted this fall, the extent of the chloroform plume pollution of groundwaters to the east of the LEHR site has now been identified. From this information, it appears to have migrated to the east of the site to a considerably less distance than that predicted by DOE's previous consultants (PNNL).
The key issue that has to be addressed by those familiar with the groundwater hydrology at the LEHR site is whether the hydrogeologic conditions at this site are sufficiently defined so that there is a high degree of certainty that the eastern most front of groundwater pollution has now been identified by this last round of hydropunch samples. If the RPM's will not sign off on this, indicating their experts on groundwater hydrology are satisfied that the most recent hydropunch sampling properly characterizes the situation with respect to the eastern migration of the plume, then UCD must immediately plan to continue to do additional sampling of HSU-2 to the east as soon as weather permits.
At the RPM meeting, I suggested that UCD develop their best estimate of the transport of chloroform in the plume arising from the north end of landfill no. 2 in order to be certain the recent hydropunch sampling results are in accord with what would be expected when all of the data that has been collected thus far on this plume and the characteristics of HSU-2 are critically reviewed. DSCSOC should request that UCD be required to present this information by no later than the January 1997 RPM meeting.
One of the issues that came out of the LEHR site investigations that is of great concern is that, if I understood the discussions correctly, there appears to be an area directly east of LEHR near Putah Creek where HSU-2 does not exist. Does this mean there is no HSU-2 under landfill no. 3? If it exists there, but then disappears to the east of that site, where have the pollutants that have entered HSU-2 been carried when they reach the end of HSU-2 to the east of the site? This issue needs to be clarified.
It appears that the hydrogeology of the area east of LEHR with respect to HSU-2 locations is far more complex than has been presented previously. If major areas exist to the east of the LEHR site where there is no HSU-2, there could also be major areas, i.e., flow paths, where the permeability of the aquifer could be significantly greater than the average conditions that have been reported thus far, with the result that there could be special flow paths where chloroform-polluted groundwaters are rapidly moving off-site that have not yet been detected. DSCSOC should request that UCD develop a comprehensive discussion of what is known now about the off-site hydrogeology of HSU-1 and HSU-2 to the east of the LEHR site for areas that could be polluted by LEHR site wastes. UCD should be required to also discuss what data gaps exist in the understanding of the hydrogeology of this area and develop a plan to fill these data gaps as soon as possible.
Nishi Well Issues
It appears now that DOE's mishandling of the situation with respect to working with Mary Rust and the Hamel property owners in developing suitable agreements for off-site construction of the monitoring wells has delayed construction of the wells for another season. I feel DOE should be severely reprimanded by the RPMs for this mismanagement; there was no need for it. It could easily have been addressed last summer. This situation is another example of the inappropriate approaches that have prevailed out of the Oakland office in DOE management of the LEHR site.
One of the issues discussed at the last RPM meeting is the situation with respect to the use of the Nishi well for irrigation of crops. Concern has been voiced about whether continued use of the Nishi well would result in increased spread of pollution, especially to irrigate other areas of the Hamel property. I indicated if the recent hydropunch data were reliable and representative of the region, then the continued use of the Nishi well should not result in any additional groundwater pollution over what already exists, even if the Nishi well waters are used to irrigate areas that have not received these waters in the past. Again, the key issue is the reliability of the recently acquired hydropunch data as being representative of the yet unmonitored areas to the east of the LEHR site. If the RPMs will sign off on the representativeness of the recent hydropunch data, then I would certainly be supportive of the Hamel property owners using the Nishi well in the future. This could greatly reduce the cost of constructing a new well which, in my opinion, ultimately would have to be paid for by UCD and DOE since they have polluted the groundwaters associated with the Nishi well, depriving the Hamels of the use of this water.
I suggest that UCD-DOE conduct a monitoring program of any irrigation that is done with the Nishi well to determine the concentrations of chloroform and other constituents in the recharge waters and the profile in the vadose zone underlying the irrigated areas to ensure the concentrations of chloroform in the irrigation waters does not result in contamination of the groundwaters.
One of the issues UCD/DOE has still failed to discuss is how they plan to address the pollution of HSU-4. As discussed previously, unless otherwise demonstrated by proper sampling, HSU-4 is likely contaminated by chloroform or other hazardous constituents derived from the LEHR site. It is essential that UCD, who I understand is now responsible for groundwater investigation, immediately develop a comprehensive plan for investigating HSU-4 pollution. As discussed previously, it will have to be far more than a single monitoring well as previously proposed.
Comments on the Minutes of the September 24, 1996 RPM Meeting
At the last RPM meeting, DOE representatives distributed the minutes for the September 24, 1996 RPM meeting. Comments on these minutes are presented below.
On page 2, third paragraph, mention is made about finding dog pen pedestals on adjacent properties to the LEHR site. The fact that the pedestals were disposed of off-site is of great concern since it indicates there was the potential for dumping of LEHR site wastes on adjacent properties.
On page 4, "Discussion of DSCSOC Letter dated 8/19/96," the minutes do not properly reflect the situation that has existed over the past year with respect to UCD and DOE developing a credible stormwater monitoring program. Since I first reviewed this program in the summer of 1995, I have repeatedly pointed out specific, significant deficiencies in this program, providing specific suggestions on how the program should be changed to make it into a credible stormwater monitoring program that would provide a reasonable opportunity to determine whether LEHR site wastes are adversely impacting the designated beneficial uses of Putah Creek. Both UCD and DOE representatives have continued to deny there is a problem with the stormwater monitoring program for the LEHR site.
This was exemplified by J. Littlejohn's statement in response to Julie Roth's suggestion that the stormwater monitoring program be put on the agenda for the September 24, 1996 RPM meeting. J. Littlejohn stated in his response to DSCSOC's suggestion that there were no problems with the stormwater runoff water quality monitoring program. This is more of the head-in-the-sand attitude that has prevailed by DOE staff with respect to addressing the significant deficiencies in LEHR site investigation and remediation. As I have pointed out in previous correspondence, I have been working on stormwater runoff water quality evaluation and management issues since the mid-1960's. I have had a number of graduate students obtain their Master's or PhD degrees working on this topic. My students and I were among the first to investigate the impact of urban area and street runoff on receiving water quality. I have continued to be active in this topic area and have published extensively on how to conduct a proper stormwater runoff water quality evaluation as part of developing a credible management program.
I have previously offered to make available to anyone interested any and all of my publications on this topic. That offer still stands. Recently, I completed a 50-page supplemental discussion on this issue that DSCSOC has distributed to UCD, DOE, and the RPM's. Further, I have offered to work with anyone interested in receiving my advice on how to set up a credible program. In order to set up a credible program, it will require that those responsible (UCD and DOE) for implementation and management of the program, either themselves or through acquisition of additional expertise become familiar with the basic principles of surface water quality evaluation. When it became clear that J. Littlejohn, DOE contractors, and UCD staff were not aware of the US EPA "Gold Book of Water Quality Criteria" in connection with review of the adequacy of the stormwater runoff water quality monitoring program at the LEHR site, it was apparent there was need for UCD and DOE to acquire the expertise so a credible program can, in fact, be put into place and be maintained.
From my perspective, I am encouraged that the RPMs have taken action on this matter to force UCD and DOE to develop a credible program. Hopefully, this program will be put forth at the next RPM meeting. Based on the agenda I received for the December 17, 1996 meeting, it appears this issue may be discussed at that meeting. If this is done in a meaningful way that leads to the implementation of a credible stormwater runoff water quality monitoring program for the LEHR site, then there will be no need for DSCSOC to file complaints with DOE and the regulatory agency management on this issue. If it is not done, DSCSOC should follow through with the previous announced approach of asking DOE management in Washington, D.C. and the RPM agency administrators to become involved in this matter. Hopefully, DSCSOC will not be put in the position of having to adopt this approach.
LEHR Water Monitoring Program
On November 23, 1996, you received a copy of a letter from Hedy Ficklin regarding the LEHR water monitoring plan which summarized "...comments on EPA, DTSC, and CVRWQCB ...on parts of the surface water and stormwater portions of the plan." I have reviewed these comments and requested that a copy of the January 1994 plan be made available to DSCSOC. I have recently received this plan and over the weekend have reviewed it. I am submitting a separate set of comments on the deficiencies in this plan. I find from the discussions in the Ficklin, November 20, 1996 letter the issues addressed by the RPM's fail to address several key issues which represent major deficiencies in the existing stormwater runoff monitoring program as evidenced by the January 1994 plant and the data being generated as presented in the data reports, including the most recent data report from the spring quarter 1996.
I have prepared a set of comments on the deficiencies in the DOE Quarterly Ground and Surface Water Monitoring Report dated August 1996. These comments are being submitted to DSCSOC separately. As discussed in these comments, this report contains many of the same highly significant deficiencies in the presentation of data that I have discussed in my previous comments on data reports. I have previously suggested to DSCSOC that it may be necessary to file a formal complaint with DOE and the RPM administrations to stop the inappropriate reporting of data from the LEHR site. UCD, DOE, and the RPM's can no longer be allowed to continue to ignore DSCSOC comments on these issues which allow inappropriate reporting of data in the LEHR site data reports. If UCD and DOE persist with presenting inappropriate data and other information in their data reports, then it will likely be necessary to file a complaint on these issues with the appropriate authorities.
With respect to item one in Ms. Ficklin's November 20,1996 letter, in which the sewage treatment plant (STP) outfall is going to be eliminated from monitoring, it would be a serious error to not continue to monitor the UCD campus wastewater plant outfall. I am still not convinced stormwater flow at the LEHR site is reliably understood. Every time we have discussed this issue we get a different answer. As I suggested at the RPM meeting, the only way to know with any certainty whether stormwater from the LEHR site is entering the campus sewerage system is to monitor the flow (pump operations from the lift station) during stormwater runoff events. If increased flow (pumpage) occurs, then there is stormwater entering the sanitary sewer system, and this system should be monitored as part of the stormwater monitoring program.
Further, since stormwater from the LEHR site could, because of the hydraulic loading, cause UCD's campus wastewater treatment plant to further violate its current NPDES permit limitations prohibiting the discharge of toxic substances to Putah Creek, if any stormwater runoff from LEHR enters the campus sewerage system, then the wastewater treatment plant effluent must also be monitored as part of the LEHR site monitoring.
Another reason to monitor the campus wastewater treatment plant discharges to Putah Creek is that one of the methods of potential disposal of the LEHR site waste polluted groundwaters is by discharge to the campus sewerage system. Since UCD's wastewater discharges are now and have been for many years (at least since 1991 according to the recent EIR released by UCD) violating the NPDES permit limitations of no discharge of toxics to Putah Creek, it will be important that UCD/DOE establish reliable background data on the characteristics of its wastewater effluent prior to introduction of any LEHR site polluted groundwaters independent of the degree of treatment to the campus sewerage system. The increased flow associated with dumping even highly treated LEHR site polluted groundwaters to the campus sewerage system will likely aggravate the existing situation associated with UCD's violations of its current NPDES permit limitations. Failure to properly establish background conditions before introducing LEHR site polluted groundwater into the campus wastewater system could readily be grounds for DSCSOC opposing that disposal method based on the fact that even the hydraulic loadings could cause increased pollution of Putah Creek by toxic substances.
The issue of monitoring of the campus wastewater treatment plant effluent needs to be reviewed in detail at a forthcoming RPM meeting to be certain that stormwater runoff and groundwater remediation issues do not cause UCD to further violate its NPDES permit limitations. While the UCD L. Vanderhoef administration claims in their October 1996 draft EIR that UCD's campus wastewater treatment plant has not violated its current NPDES permit limitations, that claim is based on a highly convoluted, totally inappropriate interpretation of permit conditions. The draft EIR admits that the effluent from this treatment works has been toxic to aquatic life since 1991. One of the specific limitations set forth in the permit is that the discharge should not be deleterious to human, aquatic, or plant life within Putah Creek. This requirement means that the effluent cannot contain toxicity. UCD has admitted in the draft EIR that since 1991 the effluent has been toxic to aquatic life due to some unknown constituent(s). While the University of California, Davis L. Vanderhoef administration asserts in this draft EIR that a toxic effluent is permissible, i.e. not in violation of its permit limitations and the Basin Plan objectives of no toxicity in the receiving waters for a permitted discharge, since the CVRWQCB did not specifically list, as a permit limitation, each and every constituent that could be in its wastewater discharges to Putah Creek with a specific concentration limit delineated in the permit. It is the UCD L. Vanderhoef administration's position that UCD can discharge a toxic substance in any amount to Putah Creek unless the CVRWQCB specifically delineates a concentration limit on that substance in the NPDES permit. Such an approach ignores the general permit limitations set forth in the permit which are specifically included in all NPDES permits to prevent recalcitrant polluters from discharging substances in their wastewater effluent that are adverse to receiving water water quality which are not specifically delineated with a concentration limit in the permit. Obviously, the UCD L. Vanderhoef administration is in need of technically competent assistance from those who understand NPDES limitations and aquatic life toxicity issues.
I understand that the public impacted by UCD's mismanagement of its wastes have recently filed a request with the CVRWQCB to take action to force UCD to stop violating its NPDES permit and to control aquatic life toxicity and its toxic discharges to Putah Creek in accord with current permit requirements and Basin Plan objectives. I have recommended in my review of the draft EIR UCD be given one year to control the discharge of toxicity in its wastewater effluent. If it does not unequivocally control toxicity in its effluent, then, in accord with NPDES permit requirements and normal water pollution control across the US, UCD must construct additional treatment works through a toxicity reduction evaluation (TRE) to protect the beneficial uses of Putah Creek. An alternative would be for UCD to stop discharging to Putah Creek and to develop a sewerage system between the campus and the city of Davis which would convey the campus waste waters to the city sewerage system for treatment and disposal to a less sensitive area than Putah Creek.
Also in the draft EIR released in October 1996 is included as an appendix the UCD generated cumulative impact study that was originally requested by the public in the winter of 1995 who were concerned about Putah Creek water quality. While the public requested that UCD be required, as part of further permitting of wastewater discharges to Putah Creek, including the pumping of UCD's "west" campus landfill leachate polluted groundwaters after VOC stripping to Putah Creek, fund a third party independent review of the cumulative impacts of UCD's wastewater discharges and stormwater runoff on Putah Creek water quality-beneficial uses. The public's suggestion was supported by the CVRWQCB, and a formal request was submitted by that Board to the UCD L. Vanderhoef administration in July 1995. The UCD L. Vanderhoef administration rejected the CVRWQCB's and the public's request to fund an independent third party evaluation of cumulative impacts. Instead, without the knowledge of the public, a behind-the-scenes deal was worked out between the UCD L. Vanderhoef administration and the Regional Water Quality Control Board chairman which would allow UCD, without public input or review, to conduct its own cumulative impact studies. These studies were first made available to the public in the draft EIR released in October 1996.
As discussed in my detailed comments on UCD's self-serving cumulative impact studies, the studies were done incorrectly where they failed to address in a reliable manner the cumulative impact of regulated as well as unregulated chemical constituents that could be toxic to aquatic life within Putah Creek that would tend to bioaccumulate to excessive levels in Putah Creek aquatic organisms, that could pollute groundwaters along Putah Creek with VOC's and other constituents present in the UCD's wastewater treatment plant effluent, and that could cause individuals who contact recreate in Putah Creek near the point of campus wastewater discharge to become ill due to the inadequate destruction of pathogens in the treatment plant effluent.
Another important event relative to LEHR site remediation issues has recently occurred with the termination of Wm. Crooks as the Executive Officer of the CVRWQCB. As you know, about a dozen public groups, including a group of citizens concerned about Putah Creek water quality, contacted Governor Wilson about the lack of enforcement of NPDES permits and the attainment of waste discharge requirements within the Central Valley. This contact took place after years of the public trying to get the CVRWQCB and its staff to enforce the existing regulations. When the Board and staff continued to ignore the public's concern on this matter, they contacted Governor Wilson who, working through Secretary Strock, determined that Wm. Crooks should be terminated from his executive officer position. Mr. Crooks, however, at the November 18, 1996 hearing devoted to his termination, admitted that the Board and staff had not been enforcing regulations on waste discharges in the Central Valley. He indicated this lack of enforcement was Board policy. I understand the new interim executive officer has been given the responsibility to meet with the public to ensure the past approaches, which have allowed dischargers such as UCD to routinely violate its NPDES permit limitations for its campus wastewater discharges, will no longer be allowed.
The situation that has evolved out of the draft EIR and the UCD cumulative impact evaluation of its wastewater discharges and stormwater runoff to Putah Creek, as well as the termination of Mr. Wm. Crooks as the Executive Officer for the CVRWQCB, will have a significant impact on the remediation approaches that are possible for LEHR site polluted groundwaters. Those who are planning remediation approaches as well as those reviewing proposed approaches must not aggravate the already existing NPDES permit violations associated with wastewater discharges and stormwater runoff from the UCD campus. From my perspective, I will be recommending to DSCSOC that any remediation approach developed for LEHR site polluted groundwaters fully protect Putah Creek water quality. Further, this protection should be based on a proper monitoring of Putah Creek water quality. No longer will UCD and DOE be allowed to claim they are protecting Putah Creek water quality when the monitoring programs that are being conducted fall short of a credible water quality monitoring program for detecting potential adverse impacts. I understand DSCSOC will be making available to DOE and the RPM's a copy of my comments on the significant deficiencies in the UCD L. Vanderhoef administration's draft EIR released in October 1996 as well as my comments on the deficiencies in the UCD L. Vanderhoef administration's self-conducted review of the cumulative impacts of UCD's wastewater discharges and stormwater runoff on the beneficial uses of Putah Creek. These comments provide important background that UCD, DOE, and the RPM's should consider when formulating remediation approaches for the LEHR site. Failure to do so could readily result in proposed approaches not being acceptable in protecting Putah Creek water quality from impaired use in accord with DOE's Order No. 5400.1 of complying with federal, state, and local requirements.
Under separate cover, I am providing comments on the significant deficiencies in the Water Monitoring Plan dated January 1994 that has just been made available to me per my November 24, 1996 request. As discussed therein and in my previous correspondence to DSCSOC, UCD, DOE, and the RPM's, one of the most significance deficiencies in the current stormwater runoff monitoring program is the failure to measure aquatic life toxicity and bioaccumulation of hazardous chemicals in Putah Creek aquatic life. This issue was not mentioned in the Ficklin letter of November 20, 1996 regarding the LEHR stormwater monitoring plan. UCD, DOE, and the RPM's should understand it will be my recommendation to DSCSOC that it files a formal complaint with DOE-Washington, D.C. and the heads of the regulatory agencies with which the RPM's are associated if a credible aquatic life toxicity monitoring program is not immediately implemented for stormwater runoff from the LEHR site.
Further, a credible ongoing bioaccumulation monitoring program must also be implemented to determine whether fish in Putah Creek contain excessive concentrations of hazardous chemicals that are derived from LEHR site wastes. Even if the sampling of fish that took place this last fall by the US EPA shows no excessive bioaccumulation at this time, the bioaccumulation studies must continue annually until well after the LEHR site is remediated to ensure the remediation process does not mobilize constituents that occur in surface water runoff from the site to a sufficient extent to lead to excessive bioaccumulation in the future. Also, since there is a possibility that the groundwater remediation program being conducted by UCD will involve either direct or indirect discharge of LEHR site waste polluted groundwaters that have been treated to some degree to Putah Creek, the bioaccumulation studies should continue for as long as groundwater remediation occurs to ensure that the pump and treat discharges do not, at some time in the future, release hazardous chemicals to the environment that are not detected by the chemical monitoring of the treated groundwaters.
Another area that needs to be addressed associated with the evaluation of LEHR site stormwater runoff impacts on Putah Creek water quality is that of sediment toxicity in Putah Creek that could arise from the discharge of constituents from the LEHR site that cause these sediments to be toxic to aquatic organisms in Putah Creek. Putah Creek sediment samples should be collected annually, preferably in the late summer/early fall, at several locations and examined for sediment-based aquatic life toxicity using US EPA procedures. This is required since the discharge of constituents from the LEHR site, while not necessarily toxic in the discharge waters or in Putah Creek waters at the time of discharge, could accumulate in sediments and become toxic to aquatic life which would be adverse to the beneficial uses of Putah Creek. An example of this kind of situation would be particulate organic nitrogen compounds derived from dog wastes or plant material which would accumulate in Putah Creek sediments. In the sediments the organic nitrogen is converted to ammonia, which is highly toxic to aquatic life. Similarly, the discharge of particulate organic carbon in stormwater runoff from the LEHR site, which in itself would not necessarily be adverse to aquatic life in Putah Creek, when it accumulates in Putah Creek sediments, it could exert sufficient oxygen demand in the sediments to use up the dissolved oxygen and, thereby, lead to the production of low DO, hydrogen sulfide, and ammonia toxicity in the sediments.
The first phase of addressing this issue is the measurement of sediment toxicity using a suite of sensitive organisms recommended by the US EPA. If toxicity is found, then a TIE should be made to determine its cause and the source of the constituents responsible for the toxicity. If the LEHR site is found to be the source or contributor to the problems, then UCD and DOE should be required to control the input of constituents that lead to sediment toxicity in Putah Creek.
Item two of the Ficklin, November 20, 1996 letter indicates that flow measurements should be made at several locations. I support this approach, but, in addition, as discussed previously, because of the uncertainty of UCD's recently announced position that no stormwater from the LEHR site enters the campus sewerage system, DSCSOC should require that measurement of stormwater flow-lift station pumping be included to be certain that stormwater from LEHR does not contribute to campus wastewaters. I will be surprised if there is no LEHR stormwater component in UCD wastewaters. At a site like LEHR, there is likely to be connections between stormwater drains and the sewerage system. These routinely occur at many other locations and almost certainly have occurred at LEHR as well. Further, since the LEHR sanitary sewerage system is not likely constructed and maintained so that no infiltration of percolating groundwater associated with a stormwater runoff event enters the sanitary sewer, it is likely that stormwater is entering the sanitary sewer system which could be carrying LEHR site wastes. This is a common problem in all sanitary sewer systems, and it would be highly surprising if it does not occur at the LEHR site. Flow measurements at the point where the LEHR sanitary sewage leaves the LEHR site must be made on a routine basis for each storm to determine whether the storm causes increased flow during and following the storm. Without highly reliable measurements of this type, DSCSOC should oppose the termination of monitoring the UCD wastewater discharges to Putah Creek.
The statement is made on page two of the Ficklin, November 20, 1996 letter that UCD and DOE should provide the "regulators" with proposed revisions of the water monitoring plan "one week before to the next RPM meeting." That information should have also been provided to DSCSOC. Since I have not received this information, I assume that UCD and DOE did not comply with the RPM's request in a timely manner. If they did but failed to provide this information to DSCSOC, then DSCSOC should file a complaint on the handling of this matter by UCD and DOE as well as on the RPM's responsible for handling this matter.
Attached to the Ficklin letter was a one page statement titled "Comments on Water Monitoring Plan, January 1994 and related QAPJP." I agree with the comments made. With respect to the comment on page 3.8, because of the lack of competence in surface water quality issues by UCD and DOE and their contractors, it is essential that UCD and DOE provide a detailed discussion of how they are going to acquire the technical competence to properly present and discuss the data obtained in the surface water runoff monitoring program. A statement that they are going to follow such and such risk assessment approach will not be adequate. They must hire someone either directly or on the consultants' staff who has sufficient expertise to meaningfully address the proper interpretation of stormwater runoff water quality issues.
Additional comments on the deficiencies in the January 1994 Water Monitoring Plan have been provided in my separate specific comments on this plan.
Neighbors Monitoring Well Results
Recently, you forwarded to me the UCD neighbors monitoring well results obtained from UCD dated November 27, 1996. Upon review of these data, I find they indicate there are no water quality problems detected by the monitoring program conducted. I am following up on this matter to address an issue that needs to be addressed by UCD and DOE that shows up in these data as well as in other data presentations that have been made by UCD and DOE. This problem relates to the fact that the data presentations include a specific listing for detection limits for various analytical methods, yet data are presented with concentrations less than their detection limit. It appears that either the lab doing the reporting or UCD/DOE are incorrectly listing detection limits for the analysis provided. The detection limit for the analysis provided should not be a generic detection limit but should, in fact, be the detection limit that is appropriate for these analyses at the time the analyses were conducted. To mechanically list detection limits as UCD and DOE have been doing in their data reports is technically invalid and an inappropriate approach for presentation of data. The detection limit reported should be based on a proper evaluation of the detection limits that are being used at the time of the analyses.
This is a particularly important issue for the VOCs since the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board establishes the detection limits as the groundwater clean-up objective. I have previously pointed out this problem with how UCD and DOE are reporting data to DSCSOC. My comments have been passed on to the RPMs, UCD, and DOE. Since they are continuing to inappropriately report data, DSCSOC may have to take action to stop the inappropriate reporting.
There are also several other problems with the data that were reported in the November 27, 1996 letter to you, the most significant of which is the detection limit for chloroform is listed as 1 µg/L. Since, according to Mr. William Crooks in his letter of the fall of 1995, the official detection limit used by the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board for chloroform is 0.5 µg/L, UCD/DOE should change the analytical methods they are using so the detection limit is less than 0.5 µg/L, i.e. the official detection limit used by the Regional Board.
While not a particular problem in the neighbor drinking water studies, the analytical method used for chromium is a problem throughout the rest of the LEHR site investigations. As I have pointed out previously, the detection limits that are being used for chromium VI of 10 µg/L is inadequate from several perspectives. First, the US EPA water quality criterion is 10 µg/L for chromium VI. Obviously, the detection limit has to be less than the criterion value if reliable data are to be attained. Second, and even more important, is the fact that it is now well-established that chromium VI can be toxic to aquatic life at less than 1 µg/L. Since the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board's Basin Plan objectives require no toxicity to aquatic life in Putah Creek and since chromium occurs routinely in groundwaters associated with the LEHR site in excess of this concentration and since these groundwaters will have to be remediated to control VOCs that have arisen from improper waste management at the LEHR site and since one of the methods for management of the VOC-polluted groundwaters includes VOC stripping and discharge, either to the campus sewage treatment plant or to Putah Creek, it is imperative that chromium VI analyses be conducted with reliable detection limits at less than 1 µg/L. UCD/DOE should immediately change the analytical methods to achieve detection limits of less than 1 µg/L for chromium VI. Otherwise, UCD and DOE will continue to generate unreliable, inadequate data on the potential for chromium associated with the LEHR site and in stormwater runoff from this site to cause water quality problems in Putah Creek.
If there are any questions on these comments, please contact me. I suggest you pass them on to UCD, DOE and the RPMs for their review and comment. UCD/DOE should understand that since I have mentioned these problems in the past and they are persisting, if these problems continue, then formal complaints will be filed so the data generated at the LEHR site are reliable and appropriate to define the existing pollution as well as the potential of various remediation approaches to properly remediate the site without creating new problems in Putah Creek.
G. Fred Lee, PhD, DEE
Technical Advisor, DSCSOC
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