Comments on "Accelerating Cleanup: Focus On 2006 Discussion Draft"

G. Fred Lee, PhD, DEE
G. Fred Lee & Associates
27298 E. El Macero Dr.
El Macero, California 95618-1005

via email

July 18, 1997

Julie Roth
Route 2, Box 2879
Davis, CA 95616

Dear Julie:

In response for your request for a review of the DOE draft plan entitled "Accelerating Cleanup: Focus On 2006 Discussion Draft," I wish to provide the following comments.

While I applaud DOE for wanting to accelerate cleanup, it is important that this acceleration not result in failure to properly investigate and remediate the LEHR site. As discussed herein, it appears that DOE Oakland staff have been making assumptions about cleanup approaches and objectives which they have not previously discussed with the RPMs at a meeting in which DSCSOC was invited. I have suspected that this was going to be the case for some time since, as you know, DSCSOC could not obtain a definitive answer from DOE Oakland on cleanup objectives for the LEHR site. It is now clear that DOE Oakland has been assuming and is continuing to assume that it will not comply with the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board's Basin Plan requirements for cleanup to background that other polluters of the soils and groundwaters of the region must achieve. Various aspects of this proposed accelerating cleanup program that I feel DSCSOC needs to consider are discussed below.

Accelerating Cleanup: Focus On 2006
Discussion Draft dated June 1997

DOE Oakland has been developing time schedules for LEHR site investigation and cleanup which provide limited opportunity for review. As I have discussed in connection with UCD's proposed time schedules, the approach that has been followed in the past by UCD and DOE with respect to site investigation and possible remediation approaches where what are obviously technically invalid or inadequate approaches are proposed by UCD/DOE where the RPMs and/or DSCSOC is expected to object to these and then inform DOE of the requirements that they must achieve, must not continue if this time schedule is to be met. DOE must develop credible, first draft documents that should require a minimum of time for review by the RPMs and DSCSOC. The inadequate draft documents of the type that have been submitted over the past several years for review require repeated review. If this approach continues this means that it will not be possible to achieve the time schedules that DOE has set forth for completing site investigation and cleanup.

On page 1 last paragraph, the statement is made that, "The DOE OAK EM mission is to manage risks at nine national research facilities contaminated with various hazardous and radioactive materials." With respect to managing risk it is now clear that DOE Oakland expects future UCD students and staff that will be associated with the LEHR site as well as LEHR site neighbors to be exposed to an elevated risk associated with residual contaminants left at the site compared to the generally accepted risk that is applicable to contamination of the Central Valley region of California in accord with Regional Board requirements requiring cleanup to background.

The University of California, Davis conducted research with DOE support and managed campus wastes without proper evaluation of the information available of the consequences of waste management activities that were used in order to save funds associated with research projects and campus waste management. This "saving," however, was short-sighted since now, as expected at the time of waste disposal - since the late 1950s, large scale pollution of soils and groundwaters has occurred which will require the expenditure of far more funds in Superfund site clean up costs than was "saved" at the time of waste disposal. For DOE now to propose that future generations of LEHR site users as well as neighbors of the region through groundwater transport should be exposed to greater risk than if the LEHR site research had not been undertaken and/or the University of California, Davis administrations had never tried to practice cheaper than real cost campus waste management at the LEHR site is inappropriate. The people of the area and future generations should be entitled to sufficiently reliable investigation and remediation of the site so that there is no question about the adequacy of the investigation and remediation and to ensure that the hazards of any residual contaminants left at the site are essentially equivalent to background.

Both UCD and DOE are attempting to claim a lack of cost effectiveness with respect to adequately cleaning up the site compared to normal clean up standards in this region. UCD and DOE administrations should have thought of this situation before they practiced cheaper than real cost research and campus waste management. It is not like the information was not readily available to them on the potential problems of the way in which the wastes were being managed. It has been well known since the 1950s that the approach that has been followed at UCD for waste management of its campus waste and at the LEHR site would lead to significant environmental problems. Now the true costs of this research and campus waste management are beginning to be borne by the taxpayers of California where tens of millions of dollars will have to be spent cleaning up for the inadequate waste management practices that were undertaken by the University of California, Davis in connection with campus waste management and the LEHR site activities.

It is important to note that the situation at LEHR is somewhat different than some other DOE facilities that were active because of national defense. LEHR was a research facility in which there was no compelling reason to practice cheaper than real cost waste management.

On page 6 under LEHR it is stated as one of the accomplishments, "...and removal of more than 500 dog pens contaminated with radioactive materials was accomplished in 1996." There was no removal of the dog pen associated waste. There was removal of pen fencing and some structures associated with the dog pens. The dog pen wastes are still there. The dog pens are just no longer physically visible. The removal of the dog pens was acknowledged to be a cosmetic effort on the part of DOE Oakland to claim that it was doing something in the way of remediation. The real problems with the dog pens remains to be addressed.

With respect to achieving the cleanup of the LEHR site by 2006, it is important to understand that being able to achieve that cleanup will be highly dependent upon the adequacy of site investigation. At this point, the site has still not be adequately investigated to begin to characterize the full range of site hazards. It is still going to be at least one and possibly several years before it is possible to properly plan for remediation of the site.

Site Baseline Summary
Laboratory of Energy Related Health Research
(High Scenario)
Ten Year Plan 0
dated February 28, 1997

I reviewed a lot of documents on issues in my 35 year professional career. This DOE document, "Site Baseline Summary Laboratory for Energy Related Health Research," ranks as number 1 in terms of the number of pages included with the least useful information. It appears that DOE must own forests someplace where they want to promote cutting the trees to make paper. This is just one of a long series of bureaucratic documents that DOE headquarters evidently is forcing DOE Oakland to generate. There have been previous discussions about the massive paperwork that DOE requires which drives the cost of DOE CERCLA operations up considerably over the costs that are borne by most private PRPs. All of this is a massive waste of taxpayers funds. It is also a potential waste of RPM and DSCSOC - the public's - time reviewing documents that are not properly developed.

Page D-4 under S.7 Site Assumptions states for LEHR-010, "Cleanup level will be based on risk evaluation and not on California non-degradation policy (background)." DOE Oakland has finally admitted that it is not going to conform to DOE policy of complying with local regulatory requirements. Previously DOE has repeatedly stated that it would fully comply with local regulatory requirements in LEHR site clean up. Those statements were propaganda and are now unreliable. The regulatory requirements in the Central Valley of California are to clean up to background. Other polluters have to follow this approach in this region. DOE, on behalf of UCD, must also follow this approach. Future users of the LEHR site and the people in the region who could be impacted by it should be entitled to the same degree of protection as people near other hazardous chemical sites within the Central Valley, namely clean up to background. DSCSOC needs to decide its position on this matter and, if necessary, take the matter first to the RPMs and if they do not support clean up to background then to US EPA headquarters in Washington D.C. (Browner) and to DOE headquarters in Washington D.C. (Alm). If DOE Oakland's approach of not complying to local regulatory requirements for clean up of a hazardous chemical site is not supported, then DSCSOC needs to determine whether it will take this matter for full public review.

Page D-6 states under S.9 Stakeholder Involvement,

"The LEHR stakeholders are strongly involved in the planning and implementation of DOE funded activities. The Remedial Projects Managers (RPMs) and the public participate in monthly meetings which guide the direction of remedial activities. The stakeholders comment on all work plans and proposed activities. Their comments are integrated and steer the direction of the project."

This statement, while accurate as presented, is deficient in portraying the situation as it exists. In fact, it is often years from when DSCSOC, the representative of the public stakeholders, points out a significant problem with the technical approaches being used compared to what should be used to properly investigate the potential threats that LEHR site wastes represent to public health, groundwater resources and the environment before action is taken. As an example, the situation still prevails where DOE has allowed its contractors to submit data reports for the LEHR site which contain obvious, significant errors in the data presentation and interpretation. DSCSOC representatives have taken time to comment on and point out these significant deficiencies. DOE Oakland management allows them to stand uncorrected with the result that these official data reports from the site are not a reliable representation of the information that have been and continues to be developed at the site.

Approximately 10 pages into the document there is a "low scenario" discussion where basically the same comments are presented as on page D-4 as discussed above. The comments presented above are applicable to pages D-4 and D-6.

Page C-4 mentions under section A.1.2 that there were "22" underground septic tanks at the LEHR site. I have seen no reference to that many septic tanks at this site. In this same section, this document states, "These tasks will be performed in strict compliance with CERCLA requirements and all other applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations." This is another of the propaganda statements put out by DOE Oakland which is not in accord with the proposed plan for site remediation. As discussed herein, DOE Oakland has finally announced that it plans not to clean up to background in accord with local regulatory requirements, but instead wishes to use a risk based approach which will, at least as presented thus far, fail to address the risk associated with the unregulated constituents that are present in the wastes and that could be left at the site based on a risk based clean up program.

In order to properly use a risk based approach, as discussed in previous correspondence, it is necessary to develop a plausible worst case scenario evaluation of the potential for unregulated constituents in the waste and waste transformation products to, at some time in the future, be found to be hazardous to public health and the environment for those that use the LEHR site as well as off-site property owners/users. This same comment applies to page C-6 section A.1.7 Safety & Health Effects Narrative.

Page C-8 section A.2.- Project Baseline Summary - Cost Baseline, while figures are presented in various boxes, there are no units associated with these figures. Is the 20,389 20 million 289 thousand dollars?

Page C-8 section A.2.5 Cost Baseline Narrative again the statement is made about DOE assuming that the local regulations of clean up to background will not be met.

Page C-8 section A.2.6 uses the abbreviation "EM" without definition.

Page C-10 section A.3. - Schedule Baseline/Milestones, there are a number of milestones listed with dates back in 1996 or in 1997 that have already passed which were not met such as "Complete preparation of risk assessment report, planned 06/1997."

This page also indicates that DOE Oakland plans to complete post-closure monitoring by 09/2006. It appears that those who developed these plans either do not understand that the nature of threat of any residual waste that could be left at this site will be one that will require ad infinitum monitoring, not for just a period of five years. Further, it appears that DOE Oakland may not try to plan to conform to CERCLA requirements for post-closure review every five years in perpetuity to ensure that the investigation and remediation that has been conducted at the site is still considered to be protective of public health, the environment, groundwater resources and the interests of those within the sphere of influence of the residual waste.

While DOE Oakland has not yet defined what waste it plans to leave at the site, from the documents it has generated through its consultants, there could be an attempt to leave substantial amounts of waste at the site through such procedures as "capping" of waste containing areas. As has been discussed in detail in previous correspondence, such capping, while possibly effective at the time it is first developed, is well known to be deficient for as long as the regulated waste in the capped area will be a threat. Further, where there is regulated waste, there is almost certainly unregulated hazardous and deleterious waste which will also be a threat, effectively in perpetuity. The post-closure monitoring of this site will require a comprehensive monitoring program be carried out forever unless all waste derived constituents are removed to background and a proper background which reflects LEHR site conditions is established.

It is inappropriate to assume, as DOE and UCD have been doing, that background should be established based on pollution of the groundwater by other sources. It should also be understood that any capping that is done should be done with leak detectable caps which will require considerable funds for operation and maintenance of these caps forever i.e., in accord with California regulations for as long as the wastes represent a threat. Detailed discussions of these issues have been provided to DSCSOC and through DSCSOC to DOE Oakland and the RPMs.

On page C-30 B.4. Budget Request Justification under section B.4.1. Justification Based on Risk Reduction, the statement is made that the risk to public workers and the environment will be reduced from high in 1997 to low by 2001. Since the magnitude of the risk associated with the site is not known at this time and procedures that DOE proposes to use to clean up the site are not defined, it is impossible to state, with any certainty, what the magnitude of reduction of the risk will be especially by a fixed date like 2001. There is no question that there is a significant risk now that needs to be managed and there is adequate justification for substantial DOE funds to cover the mismanagement of LEHR waste by UCD associated with the UCD administration's attempting to conduct research at cheaper than real cost where they ignored long term costs associated with waste management that were well known that the time that the research was being conducted and waste was being deposited at the LEHR site.

With respect to page C-30 B.4.4. Prior Years Accomplishments where there is a listing of groundwater monitoring, there is no mention of the fact that groundwater monitoring reports have been allowed, by DOE, to contain significant errors that have not been corrected.

Under section B.4.5. is listed 1996 accomplishments including the surface water monitoring. Thus far, DOE and UCD have not conducted a credible surface water monitoring program at the LEHR site. They have used inappropriate analytical methods, they did not monitor all of the areas where LEHR site wastes could be transported from the site through stormwater runoff to off-site sources, they have provided unreliable interpretation of the data in the data reports, and they have failed to investigate, using readily available techniques, the potential problems associated with aquatic life toxicity and bioaccumulation, etc.

Page C-30 under B.4.6 1997 Planned Accomplishments including the risk assessment, from what has been developed thus far in both the vadose zone monitoring and the so-called risk assessment document, thus far DOE does not have a credible vadose zone model. Since I have submitted my original comments on the inadequate modeling approach that DOE is using to predict transport in the vadose zone, I have had the opportunity to discuss this issue with a number of experts in this area and they confirm that vadose zone modeling that assumes a uniform transport based on average moisture content over the year is essentially a worthless model in predicting actual transport. This is not how water or constituents move through the vadose zone.

Page C-34 under section C.3. - Project Assumptions lists as item 1 in mid-page, "Cleanup levels will be based on risk evaluation and not on the California non-degradation policy (background)." This has been discussed herein, as well as in previous comments, as an inappropriate approach. Further, DOE's approach with respect to protecting potential users of the LEHR site as well as the people who own or use properties near the site in perpetuity should be to the same degree i.e., clean up to background, as provided to other people in California associated with similar kinds of hazardous, deleterious waste.

In item 9 on page C-34 section C.3 and in previous other sections of this write up, the statement is made that "No CEQA documents would be required to remediate DOE areas." It is too early to indicate what I would recommend for DSCSOC's position on CEQA documents. Typically, CEQA, as preformed by the UCD L. Vanderhoef administration and other project proponents, are such superficial documents in addressing issues that they are essentially a waste of time and money. I have yet to find a CEQA document that provides full disclosure as required by CEQA on the potential impacts of a project. It is known that those who develop CEQA documents know that if they provide full disclosure i.e., discuss the whole truth on a particular project, that they will not get a second project from project proponents. The CEQA process, as being practiced today, is fundamentally corrupt and should either be abandoned or fixed so that full disclosure is provided in CEQA documents of the potential impacts of the proposed project.

In the case of the LEHR site clean up, if the project involves the development of on-site landfills or landfill covers for the waste management areas or involves the use of the vadose zone models as proposed thus far as a credible discussion of transport of constituents in the vadose zone, then DSCSOC may wish to require that a properly developed CEQA review be conducted in order to force DOE and, for that matter, UCD to adequately and reliably address these issues so that the public, decision makers and others are provided with reliable information upon which to evaluate the appropriateness of the proposed remediation approaches.

DOE and UCD should understand that if they are required to do CEQA documents on clean up that I will recommend that DSCSOC vigorously oppose any of the superficial documents of the type that UCD has been generating for its waste management activities associated with its west campus landfill closure and development of a fifth campus landfill that will pollute groundwaters in the area as well as the proposed development of its wastewater treatment plant.

If you or others have questions on these comments please contact me. I am forwarding this on to the RPMs and the LEHR site PRPs for their review and comment.

Sincerely yours,


G. Fred Lee, PhD, DEE

copy to: RPMs


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