Comments on Draft Final DOE Ecological Scoping Assessment for
DOE Areas for the LEHR site

Davis South Campus Superfund Oversight Committee
Rt. 2 Box 2879
Davis, CA 95616
fax 916-753-8220
e-mail [email protected]

September 2, 1997

Remedial Project Managers
LEHR Superfund Site
University of California, Davis
Davis, CA 95616

Via e-mail

Dear RPMs,

I have attached Dr. G. Fred Lee's "Comments on Draft Final on DOE Ecological Scoping Assessment for DOE Areas for the LEHR National Superfund Site dated August 4, 1997" prepared on behalf of DSCSOC. Dr. Lee has found many of the same deficiencies in this draft "Final" document as appeared in the initial draft. Therefore, his comments made previously in Volume 1 are also applicable to this draft report. Dr. Lee states "There is need for someone to get involved in this matter who understands the elements of water quality criteria, aquatic chemistry and aquatic toxicology to eliminate the kinds of errors that continue to occur in DOE documents pertinent to evaluation of LEHR site impacts." He has concluded this document is sufficiently deficient so that it will have to be redone.

If DOE wishes to proceed with its intention of speeding up the LEHR site investigation and cleanup, then it is time for DOE to perform an adequate and reliable investigation and stop providing significantly deficient evaluations of the LEHR site impacts such as this one.

If you have any questions regarding Dr. Lee's comments, please contact him.

Julie Roth, Ex. Dir.

cc: DSCSOC's Ex. Board
Dr. G. Fred Lee
William Taylor
Jane Riggan
Brian Shafer

G. Fred Lee & Associates
27298 E. El Macero Dr.
El Macero, California 95618-1005
Tel. (916) 753-9630 Fax (916) 753-9956
e-mail [email protected]
web site:

September 1, 1997

Comments on DOE Draft Ecological Impact Scoping Assessment

Julie Roth, Exec. Director
Route 2, Box 2879
Davis, CA 95616

Dear Julie:

I have reviewed the DOE revised draft "Final Ecological Scoping Assessment for DOE Areas for the Laboratory for Energy-Related Health Research University of California at Davis, California" and find that it, like the initial draft, has highly significant deficiencies that do not properly assess the risk of hazardous and deleterious chemicals present at the LEHR site. This revised draft appears to have been prepared in such a way as to ignore the detailed comments that have been provided by the DSCSOC on the initial draft. DOE-Oakland is proceeding in a dangerous way with respect to developing documents in accord with their accelerated site remediation plan where they do not adequately or reliably address issues raised by those who review the initial draft documents. Such an approach is not compatible with achieving this schedule. It is beginning to appear now that DSCSOC may have to start copying Al Alm of DOE headquarters so he begins to understand the significant technical problems that exist with how DOE-Oakland is proceeding to address issues of concern to the impacted public relative to how the LEHR site is investigated and remediated compared to the approach that will ultimately have to be followed in these areas by DOE-Oakland at this site.

One of the most significant deficiencies in this Draft Final Ecological Scoping Assessment is with respect to assessing stormwater runoff impacts. In addition to fundamental errors made by DOE in assessing such impacts, there is still the basic problem of an inadequate database upon which to make an assessment of risk. At the last RPM meeting UCD, as it has done a number of times in the past, promised that it would make available a revised stormwater monitoring plan for the LEHR site by the end of August 1997. Since, as in the past, UCD-DOE have failed to meet the RPM's as well as their own announced schedule for the development of such a plan, and since both DOE and UCD have had adequate notice about DSCSOC's concern on this matter, I feel now that DSCSOC should file a formal complaint with the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board and US EPA Region IX on this issue.

Even this DOE draft report acknowledges that there is an inadequate database but proceeds to estimate risk without adequate data. Such an approach as conducted is technically invalid and cannot be allowed to stand without formal review by the regulatory agencies above the RPM staff level. The RPMs have notified UCD and DOE on repeated occasions about the need to develop and implement a credible stormwater runoff monitoring program. Since UCD and DOE have both failed to meet these requirements, the time has come to stop discussing this issue and request that the regulatory agencies enforce the regulatory requirements and, if necessary, fine both UCD and DOE for failing to comply with stormwater runoff monitoring requirements.

A similar situation exists with respect to estimating the risk to groundwater where DOE is persisting with the technically invalid vadose zone modeling approach. The modeling that has been done is not valid and cannot be allowed to stand as a credible investigation that can serve as a basis for any aspect of LEHR site characterization and remediation. If DOE-Oakland persists with attempting to use that modeling, then it will be necessary to file a formal complaint with DOE headquarters and other appropriate authorities.

Overall, this Draft Final Ecological Scoping Assessment is sufficiently deficient so that it will have to be redone.

If you have questions on the attached materials or these comments, please contact me. I suggest that you pass these comments on to the RPMs and the Responsible Parties for the LEHR Superfund site.

Sincerely yours,
G. Fred Lee, PhD, DEE


Comments on
Draft Final Ecological Scoping Assessment for DOE Areas
for the
LEHR National Superfund Site
dated August 4, 1997

Submitted by

G. Fred Lee, PhD, DEE
DSCSOC Technical Advisor
G. Fred Lee & Associates
El Macero, CA 95618
PH: (916) 753-9630
FX: (916) 753-9956
em: [email protected]

September 1997

Overall Comments

This report contains many of the same kinds of errors as occurred in Volume 1. The comments made previously in Volume 1 are therefore applicable to this draft report.

Overall, this draft "final" report is far from being a credible presentation of information pertinent to properly assessing the ecological impacts of LEHR site wastes. Basically, the ecological assessment part of this program must be started over by individuals who understand the topic. DOE and their consultants are operating outside of their expertise where they are producing erroneous documents which are based on a lack of technical competence in the topic area. It must be redone.

 Specific Comments

 Page ES-ii, first paragraph, contains the statement about how ATSDR concluded that only lead and mercury were of concern. However, as discussed in previous correspondence, ATSDR's conclusion is not based on a proper evaluation since the US EPA did not use sufficiently sensitive analytical methods to detect the number of constituents in fish tissue at currently accepted critical levels developed by the US EPA Region IX for fish in San Francisco Bay. Dr. William Taylor of ATSDR has acknowledged that Dr. Lee's comments on this issue are appropriate, and attempts are being made to obtain adequate analytical services for future sampling of this type. Therefore, the DOE statement about only being concerned about lead and mercury is inappropriate. There could be a variety of regulated as well as a host of unregulated chemicals that are of concern with respect to runoff from the LEHR site that bioaccumulate and represent threats to public health and the environment.

With respect to Table ES-2 on page ES-ii, the analytical methods used for mercury are not adequate to detect mercury concentrations at potentially hazardous levels. As it has been repeatedly pointed out, the DOE and UCD studies on stormwater runoff do not provide an adequate or reliable database upon which to estimate the hazards of LEHR site stormwater runoff-associated constituents to receiving water quality. Basically, these studies need to be initiated for the first time in order to develop the database needed to make this evaluation. Without it, the evaluation is technically invalid and inappropriate.

Page 1-5 presents the position of Landfill Unit No. 3 incorrectly. This has been a problem in the various figures prepared by DOE.

Page 2-6, section 2.3.1, is concerned with identification of constituents of ecological concern. Again, DOE is attempting to ignore the issue that has been raised repeatedly by DSCSOC about the unregulated constituents that are present in LEHR site wastes that could be adverse to the environment. The discussion of ecological effects is severely deficient because DOE persists with ignoring this group of chemicals. As discussed previously, it is essential that appropriate surrogates be developed that represent the potential range of constituents that could be of concern to the environment based on what is known about plausible worst-case impacts of constituents under environmental conditions of this type.

Page 2-7, "Surface Water" and elsewhere, again DOE is ignoring the basic principles of environmental chemistry when it assumes that because something is at background, it does not represent a threat. Waste-derived constituents could have significantly different impacts than the natural background constituents due to their differences in chemistry. This issue must be considered in a credible assessment of ecological and public health impacts.

Page 2-7, second paragraph under "Surface Water," refers to Tables 2-5 and 2-6. Examination of Table 2-5 shows that errors for mercury and possibly other constituents are present.

An additional reason why this assessment of potential impacts on aquatic and terrestrial life is fundamentally flawed is that DOE has focused only on comparing the concentrations found for a limited number of constituents relative to US EPA water quality criteria. Those familiar with this field know that there are many constituents that are toxic to aquatic life for which the US EPA has not developed water quality criteria. Further, there are a number of criteria, such as for Cr VI, which are not protective of aquatic life. In addition, it appears that a number of the criterion values selected by DOE for this comparison were not appropriate for estimating hazards.

Page 2-8, Section 2.3.5 "Putah Creek Sediment," states that there are no previous studies on sediments in Putah Creek. That statement is not correct. One of the previous DOE contractors did conduct a study several years ago on the characteristics of the sediments. While the overall study was not competently done, it did provide some data that should be considered as part of this review. Certainly the existence of this study should be acknowledged.

It appears that the current DOE staff and their contractors have not taken the time to review the large number of reports generated out of several million dollars of effort per year over many years that precede the current efforts. Basically, what is being said now is that the several million dollars per year spent by DOE for site investigations prior to the current investigation have been a waste of public funds. Someone within DOE should be held accountable for this waste of funds.

 Page 2-8, Putah Creek Sediments, the discussion of mercury presented in this section is inappropriate and should be deleted. The ATSDR's comments on these various issues are not appropriate. Of particular concern is the statement,

"Based on the low concentration of mercury in Site soil and lack of mercury detections in DOE storm water, it is likely that DOE is not a significant contributor to the mercury detected in Putah Creek sediments."

Such a statement cannot be made without a technically competent study having been conducted on these issues.

Page 2-8, last paragraph, the statement is made,

"Because the ATSDR data were not collected in accordance with EPA fish and invertebrate sampling protocols and DOE did not conduct the survey, DOE can not be fully confident of either the methods or the results."

First, the US EPA collected the samples. Did not the US EPA use competent, appropriate approaches in sample collection and analysis? If not, why not? There is a significant problem with respect to the detection limits used where the US EPA laboratory that did the analyses was not aware that the US EPA Region IX had established much lower critical concentrations of many constituents than have been used in the past.

What can be said from the ATSDR studies is that lead and mercury were found at concentrations in fish taken from the area where UCD's campus wastewater treatment plant discharges to Putah Creek and where part of the LEHR site stormwater runs off to Putah Creek that are considered hazardous to public health. There is no reason to question that conclusion. With respect to the sediments or other aspects of it, there are insufficient data or the type of data collected is not appropriate to assess adverse impacts.

Page 2-9, first paragraph, again there is highly unreliable information presented on mercury where it is stated, "As previously discussed, mercury was not detected significantly above background in Site soil nor was mercury detected above AWQC." Detected where? In the soil? In the stormwater runoff? The AWQC, as discussed earlier, has been incorrectly selected by DOE.

In the same paragraph, it is inappropriate for DOE to drop mercury from further scoping. Insufficient studies have been conducted thus far to determine what, if any role mercury derived from the LEHR site stormwater runoff is contributing to the excessive mercury that is found in Putah Creek fish near where the stormwater runoff from the west side of the LEHR site enters Putah Creek. The conclusions presented on page 2-9 are not necessarily valid for the reasons discussed previously.

Page 3-3, last paragraph, discusses the high-flow situation that was encountered during the times of attempted sampling. DOE should be required to go back and do sampling under low flow. To only provide sufficient funds to do this at one time is inappropriate. DOE has largely wasted well over $10 million in site investigation thus far. It is time to start spending money correctly at this site.

It appears that DOE uses two different approaches with respect to utilization of past data. When it wants to be critical of someone else's data, it claims that since DOE did not collect data, it cannot trust the data. Now, in this case, where DOE wants to try to save a few dollars in establishing current fish species, DOE is claiming that they can use the data collected by others.

Page 3-5, "Geologic Setting," again ignores HSU-4. It should be included since it would likely and, in fact, has been found to be polluted by LEHR site wastes.

Page 3-6 also ignores HSU-4. This section must be revised to discuss it. There has been a consistent pattern by DOE and UCD to try to ignore the potential for pollution of HSU-4. DSCSOC finally, with the assistance of the RPMs, forced UCD to consider this issue through sampling groundwaters within HSU-4. It was found, as expected, that there was significant pollution at at least one location, and possibly other locations. The discussion on groundwater hydrology needs to be brought up-to-date on what has been known for a number of years about these issues to more appropriately discuss them than what is presented in the report.

Pages 3-6 and 3-7 fail to mention the issue with respect to Putah Creek water quality as influenced by the court-ordered release of flow. It appears that DOE has chosen to ignore comments such as those made by the author about this matter on the draft. This is a technically incompetent approach toward addressing issues that further erodes the public's confidence in the ability of DOE to carry out a credible study. Significantly changing the flows in Putah Creek as associated with the discharges from upstream reservoirs ordered by the court is an issue that must be discussed in a credible evaluation of ecological impact.

Page 3-11, under "Putah Creek," fails to discuss the court order regarding providing low and other flows to the Creek.

Page 4-5 begins a discussion of conceptual models for transport of constituents from LEHR site wastes and contaminated soils to environmental receptors. Conceptual Model 1 is deficient from several perspectives. First, it only considers a few regulated constituents compared to the vast arena of constituents that could be present at the site and hazardous. Further, it appears that this approach ignores the translocation of constituents from surface and subsurface soils through plants to the surface through leaves and flowers which then are transported off-site by either wind or surface water runoff.

Conceptual Model 4 which assumes that contaminants in soils have to "dissolve" to be transported off-site is inappropriate. Particulates and colloidal materials which contain hazardous constituents are also transported in stormwater runoff. These are not dissolved.

Conceptual Model 5 presented on page 4-7 mentions that pesticides and some metals, i.e. lead, tend to bioaccumulate. Lead does not tend to bioaccumulate strongly compared to mercury. If a metal is going to be mentioned, it should be mercury or selenium. Further, there are a variety of other constituents that bioaccumulate that are not pesticides. For example, PCBs, dioxins, etc. are of importance in this regard.

Page 4-12, last paragraph, makes the same errors that have been commented on previously with respect to lead and mercury.

 There is need for someone to get involved in this matter who understands the elements of water quality criteria, aquatic chemistry and aquatic toxicology to eliminate the kinds of errors that continue to occur in DOE documents pertinent to evaluating LEHR site impacts.

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