Unreliable Assessment of Vadose Zone Transport of LEHR Wastes by DOE

Davis South Campus Superfund Oversight Committee
Rt. 2 Box 2879
Davis, CA 95616
530 753-9449
fax 530 753-8220
e-mail- [email protected]
Web site http://members.aol.com/dscsoc/dscsoc,htm

February 8, 1998

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

Dear RPMs,

Dr. G. Fred Lee, DSCSOC's technical advisor, has provided DSCSOC with his comments on DOE-Weiss Associates January 20, 1998 letter from R. Devany addressed to Susan Timm regarding the Proposed Methodology for Calculating Residual Soil Concentrations Protective of Ground Water, DOE Removal Action at LEHR, UC Davis, California. I have attached his comments for your review.

Dr. Lee points out the DOE-Weiss has continued to rehash the same flawed approach for addressing the potential for the waste residues to cause groundwater pollution through vadose zone transport that has been previously commented on by DSCSOC as being inadequate. Since DSCSOC does not have the funds to repeatedly address an issue we have already commented on previously, Dr. Lee has suggested that DSCSOC begin to bill DOE for the additional time necessary to address the technically invalid approaches being followed by DOE Oakland management in LEHR site investigation and remediation. This is an issue that DSCSOC may have to consider if this type of problem continues.

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

Sincerely,

Julie Roth, Executive Director

cc: DSCSOC Ex. Board
PRPs
William H. Taylor
Jane Riggan

Unreliable Assessment of Vadose Zone Transport of LEHR Wastes by DOE

G. Fred Lee & Associates
________________________________________
27298 E. El Macero Dr.
El Macero, California 95618-1005
Tel. (530) 753-9630 Fax (530) 753-9956
e-mail [email protected]
web site: http://members.aol.com/gfredlee/gfl.htm
Please note the new area code for telephone and fax has been changed to 530

January 27, 1998

Julie Roth
Executive Director
DSCSOC
Route 2, Box 2879
Davis, CA 95616

Dear Julie:

I wish to provide DSCSOC with the comments on DOE - Weiss Associates January 20, 1998 letter from R. Devany addressed to Susan Timm regarding the Proposed Methodology for Calculating Residual Soil Concentrations Protective of Ground Water, DOE Removal Action at LEHR, UC Davis, California. Mr. Devany states that this letter covers the approach that will be used to calculate residual soil concentrations that are protective of groundwater quality at the LEHR site. A review of the information provided in the DOE - Weiss Associates proposed approach shows that it is a rehash of the same fundamentally flawed approach that has been previously commented on by DSCSOC and Susan Timm as being inadequate.

In my comments to DSCSOC on this issue I pointed out that the DOE - Weiss approach for estimating vadose zone transport of chemical constituents is technically invalid. It has been well known since the early 1980s that vadose zone transport of constituents does not primarily occur based on the average moisture content of the vadose zone. It primarily occurs as short pulses associated with saturated or essentially saturated transport of infiltration following a precipitation event or irrigation of an area.

You may recall that I have pointed out in my previous comments the fundamental errors made by DOE - Weiss in this modeling effort where they have predicted that it would take 100 years for nitrate present at the soil surface to be transported to the water table. Obviously since there is widespread pollution of groundwater by nitrate in the LEHR area arising from the agricultural use of nitrate fertilizers, there is something fundamentally wrong with the modeling that DOE - Weiss has done. The fundamental errors made by DOE - Weiss are inherent in the assumptions that are used.

I should point out that thus far DOE - Weiss have not addressed any of the issues that I have raised on this matter and are trying to get the RPMs to buy off on a technically invalid approach without addressing key fundamental issues that must be addressed before this approach would be considered a valid approach for predicting potential pollutants present at the LEHR site after "remediation" to continue to cause groundwater pollution.

Previously both Susan Timm and I have made it clear that modeling of this type can not be considered as the definitive basis for groundwater quality protection. As we have indicated, DOE as part of the overall remediation plan for the waste management units must include the development of an ad infinitum implementation of vadose zone and groundwater monitoring in the vicinity of each of the waste management units under DOE's responsibility. The DOE - Weiss January 20, 1998 letter focuses monitoring on soil sampling in the vicinity of the waste management unit where it is stated: "The results of these analyses will be used to evaluate future ground water monitoring requirements." This is another example of DOE's recalcitrant polluter approach where the DOE Oakland management are attempting to gain RPM buy-off on a technically invalid approach for assessing the potential for residual waste near remediated DOE waste management units to cause further groundwater pollution.

There is no question about the need for ad infinitum monitoring of unsaturated transport and the groundwaters that could be impacted by residual wastes that DOE proposes to leave in the soil after so-called "remediation" of the waste management units. Ad infinitum monitoring of vadose zone transport in groundwater will be required. As I have indicated at a previous RPM meeting and in written comments to DSCSOC which are passed onto the RPMs and the PRPs - DOE and UCD, the degree of clean up associated with the waste management units will determine the type of monitoring program that will be needed, not whether a monitoring program will be needed.

Another area of concern is the statement in the first paragraph of page three "During this modeling, the methodology described will be demonstrated for these COCs. However, during the removal action, other residual COCs detected at the Site will also be evaluated, as necessary, and GWASs computed using the same approach." DOE has still not faced up to the fact that it will not be allowed to continue to ignore the unregulated constituents that can be present in the LEHR site waste that have not yet been characterized in DOE's waste site characterization. I have provided detailed discussions of these issues suggesting approaches that could be followed to address the unregulated constituents. Since DOE Oakland management continues to ignore this and is trying to get the RPMs to buy off as the only constituent of concern, a few regulated chemical constituents that are analyzed for compared to the vast arena of chemicals present in LEHR site wastes that are a threat to the beneficial uses of groundwaters, I can only conclude that this is more of the recalcitrant polluter approach where DOE Oakland management is attempting to "remediate" the LEHR site area of responsibility to following approaches that are well-known to be less than fully protective of public health, groundwater resources and the environment.

DOE should understand that it must develop approaches for assessing the potential risk to all beneficial uses of the groundwater in the region for the many hundreds to thousands of the unregulated constituents that could be present in the LEHR site waste either as a component of the original waste or as a transformation product of the waste. This approach is in accord CVRWQCB Basin Plan requirements. DOE Oakland will not be allowed to claim that it has properly remediated any waste management unit until it has addressed the full range of constituents of concern whether identified or not by the characterization program that DOE has conducted at the LEHR site. I have pointed out previously in comments that were forwarded to DOE, that the characterization program that it is conducting is significantly deficient compared to the CVRWQCB Basin Plan requirements for groundwater quality protection.

The fact that DOE Oakland has simply rehashed its previously, obviously technically invalid approaches for addressing the potential for the waste residues to cause groundwater pollution through vadose zone transport is of concern where DOE Oakland has failed to address the issues raised by DSCSOC is of concern since it is forcing DSCSOC to spend the very limited funds it has of its US EPA TAG grant to have to address issues it has already addressed several times in previous correspondence. Since this is a pattern that DOE Oakland management seems to be following where they think they can ignore DSCSOC's comments and pretend that DSCSOC does not exist, they should understand that this matter will be taken to DOE headquarters and for full public review if necessary if this type of recalcitrant polluter approach continues. DSCSOC does not have the funds to repeatedly address the same issue time after time. It would seem to me appropriate that if DSCSOC has to address an issue they have already commented on previously more than twice, that DSCSOC should start billing DOE headquarters for the additional time necessary to address technically invalid approaches being followed by DOE Oakland management in LEHR site investigation and remediation.

If DOE headquarters starts to receive bills from DSCSOC to cover having to repeatedly address issues such as the technically inappropriate vadose zone modeling, the need for ad infinitum groundwater monitoring by DOE as part of its remediation of its LEHR waste management areas and a proper definition of constituents of concern, they may begin to understand that there is something fundamentally wrong with how DOE Oakland management is proceeding to remediate the LEHR site waste that arose out of UCD's mis-management of the LEHR projects and the failure of AEC - DOE to properly supervise UCD's management of LEHR site wastes.

If you have questions on these comments, please contact me.

Sincerely yours,

Fred

G. Fred Lee, PhD, DEE

GFL:jlc

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