Comments on
"Draft Work Plan for Removal Actions in the Southwest Trenches
RA/SR Treatment System and Domestic Septic Tank Areas"

Davis South Campus Superfund Oversight Committee
Rt. 2 Box 2879
Davis, CA 95616
fax 530-753-8220
e-mail [email protected]

April 14, 1998

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

Dear RPMs,

I have attached for your review Dr. G. Fred Lee's "Comments on 'Draft Work Plan for Removal Actions in the Southwest Trenches RA/SR Treatment System and Domestic Septic Tank Areas' at the Laboratory for Energy Related Health Research (LEHR), University of California at Davis, California dated April 6, 1998, Rev. C" he prepared on behalf of DSCSOC.

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


Julie Roth, Ex. Dir.

cc: DSCSOC's Ex. Board
William H. Taylor
Jane Riggan

Comments on
"Draft Work Plan for Removal Actions in the Southwest Trenches
RA/SR Treatment System and Domestic Septic Tank Areas"
at the Laboratory for Energy Related Health Research (LEHR),
University of California at Davis, California
dated April 6, 1998, Rev. C

Submitted by

G. Fred Lee, PhD, DEE

G. Fred Lee & Associates
El Macero, CA 95618
PH: (530) 753-9630
FX: (530) 753-9956
e-mail: [email protected]

April 14, 1998


This Work Plan is yet another example of DOE-Oakland's attempt to get by with doing the minimum necessary in clean up of UCD's mismanagement of LEHR site wastes. Several of the issues that have been discussed by DSCSOC as critical issues have not been addressed in this Work Plan. Without addressing these issues, the Work Plan is deficient, and it is not an acceptable basis for proceeding with this Removal Action. Some of the specific areas of concern include:

All of these issues have been discussed previously by DSCSOC at RPM meetings and in correspondence. To not discuss them in the Work Plan is another recalcitrant polluter approach that is strongly contrary to the public's interests.

Specific Comments

Page 1-4, Section 1.2 "Constituents of Concern," second sentence, states

"A list of compounds detected in each area above background concentrations is presented in the SAP. Compounds detected above background in each area are considered COCs for this RA."

As I have discussed in the past, such an approach is inappropriate for protection of public health, groundwater resources and the environment. For DOE to persist with this approach represents a deliberate attempt to try to get by in remediation of the LEHR site without proper investigation of the full range of constituents of concern that should be considered in any investigation of this type where a complex mixture of wastes is present at the site.

Anytime that the total organic carbon present in the sample exceeds the measured sum of the constituents that have been measured by the analytical procedures that were selected in this site investigation, there is a potential for yet unknown, highly hazardous constituents to be present in the waste residues at the site. DOE must include a proper risk assessment for determining the risks that the unidentified hazardous constituents present in the unidentified organic carbon residues present in any analyses of water or soil samples collected at the site. This Work Plan as presented is significantly deficient and cannot be accepted by DSCSOC as a credible Work Plan to address the potential hazards of UCD's mismanagement of wastes at the LEHR site. DOE must follow the procedures I have previously outlined of using a plausible worst-case scenario approach for estimating the potential for unknown hazardous chemicals to be present in the waste residues at the site. The Work Plan must reflect the recognition of this problem and discuss how it is going to be addressed.

Page 1-6, Section 1.4.3 "Ground Water-Protective Designated Levels," DOE is persisting with this technically invalid approach of trying to use an inappropriately formulated and applied vadose zone model for predicting the potential hazards that chemical constituents present in the soils which are residual waste constituents represent to groundwater quality. DOE has not yet addressed the significant deficiencies that have been repeatedly raised about this modeling approach. Until these deficiencies are properly addressed, this approach is not acceptable for determining whether waste-derived constituents in the soils after removal of the bulk of the waste components represent a threat to pollute groundwaters. As discussed at several previous RPM meetings, the modeling approach that has been used by DOE in this effort is fundamentally flawed in predicting transport of waste-derived constituents to the groundwater system underlying the waste disposal areas.

Page 1-6, Section 1.4.3, second paragraph, persists with this inappropriate suggestion that there may not be need for groundwater monitoring of the "remediated" waste disposal areas to ensure that no further groundwater pollution occurs from residual wastes in the soil column.

Page 1-16, Table 1-3, does not list one of the uncertainty parameters, namely unknown hazardous chemicals exist at the site that will need to be removed.

Further, in this section with respect to the "Stakeholders" where it states "Rain may cause migration of residual contamination," if there are any residual contaminants at the site that are that mobile, then they must be removed as part of site remediation. Site remediation occurs throughout the United States where it rains virtually every month into open trenches at Superfund sites. There is no need to restrict the remediation of the site based on there being only a few months each year when precipitation does not occur in the Davis area. Appropriate controls of precipitation can readily be implemented.

Page 2-6, Section "Tree Trimming and Removal," before any disposal of downed trees occurs, they should be tested to be sure they have not accumulated hazardous waste residues. This is one of the major deficiencies with DOE's and UCD's investigation of the site where they still have not conducted any studies to determine whether there is translocation of hazardous constituents from the soil and waste areas into the vegetation at the site.

Page 2-14, Section 2.6.1 "Data Evaluation--Phase I," first paragraph, mentions that chromium VI, nitrate, and mercury as well as chlordane, Ra-226 and Sr-90 will be analyzed in screening samples. This list should be expanded to include organic nitrogen, ammonia and total chromium. These issues have been discussed in detail at RPM meetings, yet DOE persists with trying to do less than what is appropriate in evaluating the potential for the residual wastes to lead to further environmental contamination. It is totally inappropriate to base further excavation on certain forms of constituents, such as chromium VI, when chromium III could be present in the soil column that can convert to chromium VI. Similarly, it is totally inappropriate to only address nitrate when organic nitrogen and ammonia in the soil column can lead to nitrate. It is time that DOE starts to incorporate aquatic chemistry into its evaluation of the potential hazards that constituents associated with UCD's mismanagement of its LEHR site wastes represent to public health and the environment. The data evaluation approach for determining the need for further soil excavation must be significantly revised from the proposed approach set forth in the first paragraph of Section 2.6.1 "Data Evaluation --Phase I" presented on page 2-14 to address these and other issues.

Page 2-14, second paragraph, Section 2.6.1 "Data Evaluation -- Phase I," states that DOE will make the decision on additional excavation. DOE will not control the additional excavation; this will be controlled by the RPMs. DSCSOC will be providing comments on the appropriateness of stopping excavation based on the results obtained on a proper analysis of the range of constituents of concern based on the sampling of the soils in the vicinity of the excavated waste areas.

In the third paragraph of this section on this page is the statement "The maximum depth of excavation, however, will be 20 ft." What will be done if there is significant reason to believe that the constituents of concern or their parents are present in the soil column below 20 feet? This issue has to be addressed at this time.

Another issue that has been raised in the past that DOE fails to address is how it is going to check for areas of preferred pathway out of the waste management area where constituents of concern or their parents could have migrated along former root paths. The current sampling program is inadequate to address this issue.

Page 2-15, last paragraph, again mentions the use of vadose zone modeling to evaluate whether residual COCs have the potential to impact groundwater. As discussed previously, the modeling that has been done is technically invalid and inappropriate for making these types of decisions. It is important to understand that since the RPMs did not address the issue raised by DSCSOC on the need for assured monitoring as the appropriate determining tool for adequacy of clean-up, there can be no decision on this adequacy of clean-up until the decision of monitoring has been resolved. I will recommend to DSCSOC that they file a formal complaint on inadequate investigation of the site if this issue is not resolved at the time the decision on the adequacy of clean up is made. The two must go together.

Page 2-17, Section 2.7.2 "Backfill," does not address the issues I have raised in the past of the permeability of the backfilled material. I was told when I asked this question at the last RPM meeting that this would be covered in the Work Plan. At least in the section where it should be covered, it is not covered. This Work Plan needs to be revised to cover the issue of the expected permeability of the recompacted materials and how this will be evaluated. Also, the source and characteristics of the backfill material need to be specified.

Figure 2-1 on page 2-19 suffers from the same deficiencies as discussed above and needs to be revised accordingly.

The same problem occurs with Figure 2-2. Not only do constituents of concern have to be screened for, but also the parents of constituents of concern must be included in this analysis.

Section 3, "Removal Action Activities at the Radium/Strontium Treatment Systems Area" suffers from many of the same deficiencies as Section 2. I will not repeat the comments on these deficiencies, but they apply to this section as well.

Page 9 of 18, "Draft Construction Specifications for Removal Action in the SW Trenches, Ra/Sr Treatment Systems, Domestic Tanks," does not provide the information requested on permeability of the backfill material after compaction and appropriate testing of it.

Appendix D presents the same fundamentally flawed vadose zone modeling that DOE and Weiss Associates have been trying to perpetrate on the RPMs, DSCSOC and the public. DSCSOC has provided comments on the deficiencies in this modeling approach several times over the past year since it was presented. A specific discussion of these deficiencies was held at a special meeting of the RPMs and DSCSOC. DOE has failed to follow the appropriate approach of discussing the deficiencies that have been raised and providing information on how these deficiencies have been addressed. Basically, DOE-Oakland and its contractors, Weiss Associates, are following fundamentally flawed approaches that are strongly detrimental to the credibility of DOE and Weiss Associates. The issue is not simply a difference of opinion, but documented discussions of the fundamentally flawed predictions that this modeling approach has made in the transport of nitrate. This issue has to be addressed or else DOE and WEISS Associates must be considered as acting in an irresponsible manner with respect to trying to predict the potential for waste constituents in the soil column at the LEHR site to pollute groundwaters.

Page D-7, third bulleted item, under "Conclusions," states "The methodology is extremely conservative." This is fundamentally in error. The methodology used in the vadose zone modeling is not extremely conservative since it does not properly account for how chemical constituents migrate through the vadose zone. They do not migrate based on the average moisture content over the year as has been assumed in this modeling effort. The conservative modeling approach would be for saturated transport which does occur with many infiltration events through vadose zones of this type.

The Sampling and Analysis Strategy included in the appendix to this Plan contains the same significant deficiencies that were discussed earlier in the summary of this Strategy presented in the main body of this Plan.

Page 2-7 of Section 2 of the draft Sampling and Analysis Plan, mentions in the first paragraph that TCLP testing will be performed. In addition to TCLP, the DTSC WET testing including bioassay procedures should be performed on any soils from the waste areas that are planned to be left at the site to ensure that DTSC defined hazardous are not left at the site where they represent a threat to public health and the environment.

Recently, DTSC has finalized its proposed approach for establishing a new hazardous waste classification approach in California. Based on a recent DTSC meeting that I attended, DTSC management plans to have this approach adopted by December 31, 1998. I have been involved as a reviewer of this draft approach over the past several years. Based on this effort, I find that some of the concentration levels of constituents present in soils/wastes that are not now classified as hazardous wastes will be classified as a hazardous waste if the current DTSC proposed approach is adopted. Since this site will have to be cleaned up to meet not only US EPA, but also state of California regulatory requirements which in general are much more protective than the US EPA's approach, it will be important to test any soils contaminated by LEHR site wastes, including any soils left in the upper five feet of the soil column to determine whether they could cause the areas to be classified as a hazardous waste that could cause further remediation to have to take place to meet the new DTSC standards for hazardous waste classification.

I have mentioned this issue previously at RPM meetings and in my reports. Thus far, DOE and UCD have failed to address it. I have made it clear that it would be my recommendation to DSCSOC that they actively pursue requiring further remediation of the LEHR site that becomes necessary because of changes in the standards used to classify wastes as hazardous wastes. I have previously pointed out that several years ago I presented an invited paper, Lee, G.F. and Jones-Lee, A., "Does Meeting Cleanup Standards Mean Protection of Public Health and the Environment?" In: Superfund XV Conference Proceedings, Hazardous Materials Control Resources Institute, Rockville, MD, pp. 531-540 (1994)."This paper is available from our web site,

DOE and UCD should terminate their current recalcitrant polluter approach of doing the least possible that the RPMs currently require and become responsible public entities that work toward achieving full public health and environmental protection. This should include anticipating changes in regulations such as for hazardous waste classification, especially when DTSC plans to have the new classification program in place within the current year. This Work Plan should be changed to include conducting appropriate analyses to ensure that public funds are used in a technically valid, cost-effective manner to properly remediate the site the first time rather than face the situation of performing remediation under current regulations and then again next year have to do additional remediation because of changes in regulations. DOE and UCD must address these issues as part of any work plan for remediation of all LEHR site waste areas and contaminated soil.

This review has not included a reviewed of the detail of the boilerplate sections of this Work Plan concerned with worker safety, QA/QC, etc. These sections can and should be reviewed by the regulatory agencies to ensure that they conform to current regulatory requirements.

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