Write your own comment to NMED
The comment period has been extended until JANUARY 20, 2017 at 5pm
Here is some background information on Triassic Park and the Title VI complaint
and a sample comment
Go to NMED’s online Record to see the fact sheets, draft permit, original permit and more
All comments should be directed by mail or email to:
Dave Cobrain, Program Manager
Hazardous Waste Bureau – New Mexico Environment Department
2905 Rodeo Park Drive East, Building 1
Santa Fe NM 87505-6303
In your comment you must state that these are:
Triassic Park Draft Permit Public Comments
Include your name, address and date
The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) is well into the renewal process for the Triassic Park (TP) Hazardous Waste Dump permit. The dump site is located in Southeastern New Mexico near the little towns of Dexter, Lake Arthur and Hagerman. The nearest large city is Roswell. NMED granted the original permit in 2002, but the dump was never built. In fact, at that time, just as now, there was no market for hazardous waste. Although both the applicants, Gandy-Marley Inc. (GMI) and NMED denied during the original hearing that there was any intention of eventually bringing radioactive materials to the dump, early on they had discussions on the best way to modify the permit to allow radioactive and hazardous “mixed waste” on the site. Through the years GMI has tried to start various radioactive projects on the site but so far has been unsuccessful. It remains to be seen whether bringing mixed or radioactive waste to the site is their true intention now.
For quite a few years, GMI’s application to renew the permit remained “under review,” but in early June 2016, NMED put out a draft renewal permit and started a 60 day comment period. Through public pressure, the comment period has been extended twice and now ends on January 20th, 2017 at 5pm. NMED’s Public Notices give details in English and Spanish on how to comment on the permit, and give links to access the Public Notices, the Fact Sheets (English & Spanish), the Draft Permit, the Index to the Administrative Record and links to the documents themselves, all on NMED’s website. Not all of this is easy to find however, as described below.
Unfortunately, the permitting process today is still following some of the bad practices that were complained about 15 year ago. At that time, several groups and individuals filed a Title VI Civil Rights Complaint with EPA’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) because of all the problems that occurred during the permit process. (There is also a summary of the complaint that was written in 2014 as a response to OCR’s request for additional information.) Because NMED receives federal funds from EPA, they are not allowed to discriminate in any of their programs. OCR is supposed to investigate every complaint and make sure every recipient of federal funds is not discriminating, or work out a plan to end the discrimination. Our complaint alleges, among other things, that not only did NMED discriminate against Spanish-speaking local residents, but also that there was and continues to be a pattern and practice of discrimination in NMED’s programs throughout the State.
It has been a struggle to get NMED to provide adequately for public participation during this current renewal process, and it continues to be difficult for people to become informed and to participate. In some ways the situation is even worse than it was 15 years ago. The Department is now trying to eliminate all public input in their Water Bureau and in the Consent Order that oversees cleanup at LANL. The former Secretary has made statements that seem to show a lack of respect for public participation. And NMED still does not seem to understand that social concerns and environmental justice (EJ) concerns are relevant to the permitting process. Yet the State Supreme Court ruling in Colonias Development Council v. Rhino Environmental Services, Inc. said that these concerns are relevant to permitting.
Communities for Environmental Justice is a group that has formed in southeastern New Mexico in response to NMED’s practice of permitting numerous polluting facilities in the area. CEJ has been fighting Triassic Park and started an online petition. After the petition and other comments, and after questions and comments at the Roswell information meeting in October, NMED has extended the comment period for a second time to January 20, 2017 at 5:00 PM. They have also finally agreed to place the English and Spanish fact sheets in a variety of libraries and other gathering places in the site area. Finally, the printed fact sheets and a printed copy of the draft permit itself will be available for review in the Roswell Public Library.
This, of course, is not everything we need as there are still serious problems with the online Administrative Record including missing documents, almost 200 mistake in the index and long delays in posting documents. But it is a great start thanks to all the people who have become involved in this fight. In a few weeks CEJ will probably create a second petition asking for these things to be improved and also to start addressing problems with the draft permit itself.
During the information meeting we found out that, despite NMED’s claims that all toxic materials coming to Triassic Park would be in containers, loose soils that are contaminated with PCBs and heavy-metals would be spread on the top of the waste at regular intervals to “cover” it and that this soil would be sprayed with leachate—contaminated water that has been collected in a sump under the landfill—to keep the dust down. Despite this and despite the heavy winds and even tornados in the area, NMED plans to do no risk assessment for folks in the surrounding area.
They also say they can’t tell us how many trucks will be traveling to the site through low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. They say they can’t do this because the site isn’t built yet. Nevertheless, they were able to calculate facility trucking during the first hearing and there’s no reason they can’t figure out maximum trucking figures now. Just the diesel fumes from trucking during normal operations can be significant enough to cause disparate effects in these communities. We need to know what the effects will be. These are things we will ask for next time.
NMED has written that they consider themselves to be in partnership with industry and with some of the agencies they are regulating. This belief is evident in their actions. The public and public participation seem to be just an afterthought or even an annoyance to NMED when in fact, it is NMED’s job to protect human health and the environment and to “provide for, encourage and assist” public participation.