— Los Angeles: DOE breaks agreement to clean up Santa Susana Field Lab contamination; may leave behind 94%

For action and upcoming meetings, go to http://www.ssflworkgroup.org

From the Ventura County Star

February 11, 2017

Our region has just been hit by two significant events that affect the health of our community.

While we have long awaited some relief for our drought, torrential rainstorms inundated the Santa Susana Field Lab, one of the most polluted places in the state. Runoff from far lesser storms in recent years resulted in more than 200 instances in which highly toxic and radioactive contaminants migrated off site at levels in excess of state pollution limits, and one can only imagine the effect these recent large storms have had.

Around the same time, the Department of Energy broke its solemn cleanup commitments and announced it would leave as much as 94 percent of the soil contaminated at the field lab site not cleaned up. Unless people rise up and our elected officials act strongly to enforce the promises, people in neighboring communities will be at perpetual risk from migrating radioactivity and toxic chemicals.

The field lab housed 10 nuclear reactors, of which at least four suffered accidents, including a partial nuclear meltdown in 1959. There was a factory for fabricating reactor fuel rods out of plutonium, perhaps the most dangerous substance on earth. In a “hot lab” there, highly irradiated nuclear fuel rods shipped in from around the nation were cut apart, with several radioactive fires.

It illegally burned radioactive and chemically hazardous wastes in open air pits, by shooting barrels of the waste with rifles to ignite them, with the toxic plumes blown over surrounding communities. It conducted tens of thousands of rocket tests, many using very dangerous fuels, and then flushed out the engines with a million gallons of toxic solvents that were allowed to simply percolate into the soil and groundwater.

The result of this shameful violation of basic environmental protections is widespread contamination of groundwater, surface water and soil with strontium-90, cesium-137, plutonium-239, perchlorate, PCBs, dioxins, heavy metals, volatile organic compounds and much more. And because the site sits in the hills overlooking more than 500,000 people within 10 miles, the contamination wants to flow off site to the places and people below.

The site has been fined more than $1 million in recent years for allowing pollutants to migrate off the property at levels deemed unsafe for people or the environment. And as long as the site doesn’t get cleaned up, that will continue.

These awful materials cause cancers including leukemia, genetic defects, neurological and developmental disorders and other health problems. A federally funded study by Dr. Hal Morgenstern of the University of Michigan found a greater than 60 percent increase in key cancers in people living near the site compared with people living farther away. Another government-funded study by a team from UCLA led by Dr. Yoram Cohen concluded that numerous pollutants from the site had migrated off site at levels in excess of EPA levels of concern.

For these reasons, the community was joyous in 2010 when the Department of Energy and NASA signed legally binding agreements with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control requiring all contamination that could be detected in the soil to be cleaned up by 2017.

It is now 2017 and the cleanup hasn’t even begun. And the DOE just issued a draft environmental impact statement breaking the 2010 cleanup agreement and saying it will only consider three options, none of which comply with its past commitments.

One would leave 34 percent of the contamination in place. A second would leave 86 percent. And the third would walk away from a staggering 94 percent of the contaminated soil, just leaving it in place. The 2010 agreement barred any consideration of leave-in-place alternatives.

The DOE has essentially thumbed its nose at California. Even if the cleanup agreement didn’t exist, the decision on how much toxic pollution to clean up doesn’t rest with the polluter, but with the state regulator. The DOE can’t decide to just walk away from most of the contamination.

But the state has been remarkably silent so far in response to this assault on its authority. Indeed, it has in its own actions undercut the cleanup agreement it signed. Toxic Substances Control is years late on its own environmental impact report and has been busy undermining the cleanup in other ways as well.

In 2010, we were promised that, with a couple of narrow exceptions, all of the soil contamination that could be detected would be cleaned up. Now it appears likely than close to none will be, and the people in the area will continue to be at perpetual risk from migrating radioactive and toxic contamination — unless they speak out now, loud and clear, and their elected representatives do the same.

Robert Dodge, a family physician in Ventura, serves on the boards of Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions. Daniel Hirsch is director of the Program on Environmental and Nuclear Policy at UC Santa Cruz and president of the Committee to Bridge the Gap.

 

http://www.vcstar.com/story/opinion/columnists/2017/02/11/dodge-hirsch-santa-susana-field-lab-broken-promises/97766134/

Posted under Fair Use Rules.

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— Details on the EPA plan; agency hid proposed increases to “avoid confusion”; PAG levels 100s-1000s times Clean Drinking Water standards

From Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility

For Immediate Release: Dec 22, 2016
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

RADICAL DRINKING WATER RADIATION RISE CONFIRMED IN EPA PLAN

EPA Hid Planned Exposure Levels 1,000s of Times Safe Drinking Water Act Limits


Washington, DC — In the last days of the Obama Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is about to dramatically increase allowable public exposure to radioactivity to levels thousands of times above the maximum limits of the Safe Drinking Water Act, according to documents the agency surrendered in a federal lawsuit brought by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). These radical rollbacks cover the “intermediate period” following a radiation release and could last for up to several years. This plan is in its final stage of approval.

The documents indicate that the plan’s rationale is rooted in public relations, not public health. Following Japan’s Fukushima meltdown in 2011, EPA’s claims that no radioactivity could reach the U.S. at levels of concern were contradicted by its own rainwater measurements showing contamination from Fukushima throughout the U.S. well above Safe Drinking Water Act limits. In reaction, EPA prepared new limits 1000s of times higher than even the Fukushima rainwater because “EPA experienced major difficulties conveying to the public that the detected levels…were not of immediate concern for public health.”

When EPA published for public comment the proposed “Protective Action Guides,” it hid proposed new concentrations for all but four of the 110 radionuclides covered, and refused to reveal how much they were above Safe Drinking Water Act limits. It took a lawsuit to get EPA to release documents showing that –

  • The proposed PAGs for two radionuclides (Cobalt-60 and Calcium-45) are more than 10,000 times Safe Drinking Water Act limits. Others are hundreds or thousands of times higher;
  • According to EPA’s own internal analysis, some concentrations are high enough to deliver a lifetime permissible dose in a single day. Scores of other radionuclides would be allowed at levels that would produce a lifetime dose in a week or a month;
  • The levels proposed by the Obama EPA are higher than what the Bush EPA tried to adopt–also in its final days. That plan was ultimately withdrawn; and
  • EPA hid the proposed increases from the public so as to “avoid confusion,” intending to release the higher concentrations only after the proposal was adopted. The documents also reveal that EPA’s radiation division even hid the new concentrations from other divisions of EPA that were critical of the proposal, requiring repeated efforts to get them to even be disclosed internally.

“To cover its embarrassment after being caught dissembling about Fukushima fallout on American soil, EPA is pursuing a justification for assuming a radioactive fetal position even in cases of ultra-high contamination,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has called for the PAGs to be withdrawn on both public health and legal grounds. “The Safe Drinking Water Act is a federal law; it cannot be nullified or neutered by regulatory ‘guidance.’”

Despite claims of transparency, EPA solicited public comment on its plan even as it hid the bulk of the plan’s effects. Nonetheless, more than 60,000 people filed comments in opposition.

“The Dr. Strangelove wing of EPA does not want this information shared with many of its own experts, let alone the public,” added Ruch, noting that PEER had to file a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to force release of exposure limits. “This is a matter of public health that should be promulgated in broad daylight rather than slimed through in the witching hours of a departing administration.”

###

 

View ultra-high proposed PAG allowable concentrations

(and explanation for the chart)

See briefing memo explaining why EPA wants water PAGs

Read letter of opposition from New York Attorney General

Revisit PEER lawsuit

— Citizen scientists find high levels of radiation where government asks residents to re-settle — the Minamisoma whistleblowers, Fukushima

From the Fukushima 311 Watchdogs

November 12, 2016

A few days ago Pierre Fetet learned of a map which immediately called his attention.

That map displays at the same time precise and unsettling measurements. Not knowing Japanese, Pierre Fetet asked Kurumi Sugita, the president of Nos voisins lointains 3.11 association, to translate for him the text. She immediately accepted and explained to him what it was:

“The project to measure environmental radioactivity around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (Fukuichi shuhen kankyôhôshasen monitoring project) is conducted by a team of relatively old volunteers (who are less radiosensitive than youth) to perform radioactivity measurements with a tight mesh size of 75 x 100 m for radioactivity in air and 375 x 500 m for soil contamination. Measurements of ambient radioactivity and soil radioactivity are carried out mainly in the city of Minamisōma and its surroundings. They try to make detailed measurements so as to show the inhabitants the real conditions of their lives, and also to accumulate data for the analysis of long-term health and environmental damages.”

Thanks to the Kurumi Sugita’s translation and with the agreement of Mr. Ozawa, author of the document, Pierre Fetet was able to make a French version of this map, which I translated into english here below:

Minamisoma contamination map oct 2016.jpg

Map of Mr. Ozawa’s team (translation first by Kurumi Sugita, then by Hervé Courtois)

In the context of the normalization of contaminated areas into habitable areas, the evacuation order of the Odaka district of the city of Minamisōma was lifted on 12 July 2016, except the area bordering Namie (Hamlet of Ohatake where a single household lives) classified as a “difficult return” area.

minamisoma-contamination-map-oct-2016-2

Situation of the study area

The contamination map examines the Kanaya and Kawabusa areas of the Odaka district, about fifteen kilometers from the former Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Mr. Ozawa, the engineer who launched this investigation, has chosen the precision of the measurements, that is to say laboratory scintillation radiometers are used to measure radioactivity: Hitachi Aloka TCS172B, Hitachi Aloka TGS146B and Canberra NaI Scintillation Detector.

The originality of this map is due as much to the quality of its realization as to the abundance of its informations: it can be read, for each of the 36 samples taken, measurements in Bq / m², in Bq / kg, in μSv / h at three different soil heights (1 m, 50 cm, 1 cm) And in cpm (counts per minute) at the height of 1 cm. For those who know a little about radioactivity, these informations are very valuable informations. Usually, measurements are given in either unit, but never simultaneously with 4 units. Official organizations should learn this way of working.

The measures revealed by the map are very disturbing. They show that the earth has a level of contamination that would make it a radioactive waste in any uncontaminated country. As Mr. Ozawa writes, these lands should be considered a “controlled zone”, that is to say a secure space, as in nuclear power plants, where the doses received must be constantly checked. In fact, it is worse than inside of a nuclear power plant because in Japan the inhabitants evacuated since five and a half years are now asked to return home, whereas it is known that they will be irradiated (Up to 20 mSv / year) and contaminated (by inhalation and ingestion).

This citizen research is remarkable in more ways than one:

  • It is independent of any organization. There is no lobby to alter or play down this or that measure. These are just raw data, taken by honest people, in search of truth.
  • It respects a scientific protocol, explained on the map. There will always be people to criticize this or that aspect of the process, But this one is rigorous and objective.
  • It takes measurements 1 m from the ground but also 1 cm from the ground. This approach is more logical because until now men are walking on the ground no? The contamination maps of Japan often show measurements at 1 m from the ground, Which does not reflect reality and seems to be done to minimize the facts. Indeed, the measurement is often twice as high at 1 cm from the ground as at 1 m.
  • It acts as a revealing map. Mr. Ozawa and his team are whistleblowers. Their maps say: Watch out ! Laws contradict each other in Japan. What the government claims, namely that a dose of 20 mSv / year will not produce any health effect, is not necessarily the truth. If you come back, you are going to be irradiated and contaminated.

France is preparing for the same forfeiture, namely that ‘it is transposing into national law the provisions of Directive 2013/59 / Euratom: the French authorities retained the upper limit of the interval: 100 mSv for the emergency phase and 20 mSv for the following 12 months (And for the following years there is no guarantee that this reference level will not be renewed). These values apply to all, including infants, children and pregnant women! ” (source Criirad)

The Japanese government is asking residents to return home and abolishing compensation for evacuees. The Olympics are coming, Fukushima must be perceived as “normal” so that the athletes and supporters of the whole world won’t be afraid, even if it means sacrificing the health of the local population. It is therefore necessary to make known the map of Mr. Ozawa so that future advertising campaigns do not stifle the reality of the facts.

Pierre Fetet

Data on measurements at Minamisōma

http://www.f1-monitoring-project.jp/open_deta.html

Website of the measuring team:

http://www.f1-monitoring-project.jp/index.html

Address of the original map (HD)

http://www.f1-monitoring-project.jp/dirtsfiles/20161104-Odaka-Kanaya-Kawabusa-s.jpg

3-ob_8977f5_20161104-odaka-kanaya-kawabusa-s.jpg

Source : Article of Pierre Fetet

http://www.fukushima-blog.com/2016/11/alerte-a-minamisoma.html

(Translation Hervé Courtois)

https://dunrenard.wordpress.com/2016/11/12/the-minamisoma-whistleblowers-fukushima/

— Tell EPA — Stop dangerous radioactive drinking water

From the Nuclear Information and Research Service

November 21, 2016

In July, thousands of us took action to stop dangerous new radiation guidance for drinking water. The EPA refused to listen, and now this guidance could be approved anytime–unless we act now!

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy is on the verge of approving radiation levels hundreds and thousands of times higher than currently allowed in drinking water and at cleaned-up Superfund sites. These mis-named “Protective” Action Guides for Drinking Water (Water PAGs)  dramatically INCREASE allowable radioactivity in water. Enormous levels of invisible but deadly radioactive contamination would be permitted in drinking water for weeks, months or even years after a nuclear accident or “incident.” The PAGs are not for the immediate phase after a radioactive release but the next phase–which could last for years–when local residents may return home to contaminated water and not know the danger.

Take action now: Protect drinking water from dangerous radiation levels!

There are two quick actions to take today:

  1. Tell your EPA Regional Administrator (see map and list below) to ask EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy why she is raising radiation levels allowed in drinking water.
  2. Send a message to Administrator McCarthy yourself asking her not to approve these dangerous radiation levels in drinking water.

We have stopped PAGs like these from being approved before–and we can do it again. EPA insiders attempted to push these dangerous guides through in the waning days of the Bush administration, and public pressure like this got the agency to pull them back. Now we have to do it again!

Click here to take action now.

Thanks for all you do!

Diane D’Arrigo
Radioactive Waste Project Director

More Information

The PAGs protect the polluters from liability, not the public from radiation. CHECK out this NBC4 News Story.

These PAGs are a bad legacy. Approving them now is a deceptive way to circumvent the Safe Drinking Water Act, Superfund cleanup levels, and EPA’s history of limiting the allowable risk of cancer to 1 in a million people exposed (or at most 1 in 10,000 in worst-case scenarios).

The PAGs don’t just affect water!

  • They markedly relax long-term cleanup standards.
  • They set very high and outdated radiation levels allowable in food.
  • They eliminate requirements to evacuate people vulnterable to high radiation doses to the thyroid and skin.
  • They eliminate limits on lifetime whole body radiation exposures.
  • And they recommend dumping radioactive waste in municipal garbage dumps not designed for such waste.

Outrageously, EPA is expanding the kinds of radioactive ‘incidents’ that would be allowed to give off these dangerously high levels and doses. PAGs originally applied to huge nuclear disasters like the nuclear power meltdowns at Fukushima or a dirty bomb BUT NOW they could ALSO apply to less dramatic releases from nuclear power reactors or radio-pharmaceutical spills, nuclear transport accidents, fires or any radioactive “incident” that “warrant[s] consideration of protective action.”

EPA REGIONS and REGIONAL ADMINISTRATORS

Region 1 Administrator Curt Spalding
(617) 918-1010
spalding.curt@epa.gov;

Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck
(212) 637-5000
enck.judith@epa.gov

Region 3 Administrator Cecil Rodrigues
(215) 814-2683
Rodrigues.cecil@Epa.gov

Region 4 Administrator Heather McTeer Toney
(404) 562-9900
McTeertoney.heather@Epa.gov

Region 5 Acting Administrator Robert A. Kaplan
(312) 886-3000
Kaplan.robert@Epa.gov

Region 6 Administrator Ron Curry
(214) 665-2100
Curry.ron@Epa.gov

Region 7 Administrator Mark Hague
(913) 551-7006
Hague.mark@Epa.gov

Region 8 Administrator Shaun McGrath
(303) 312-6532
McGrath.shaun@Epa.gov

Region 9 Acting Administrator Alexis Strauss
(415) 947-8000
Strauss.alexis@Epa.gov

Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran
(206) 553-1234
mclerran.dennis@epa.gov

For more info, contact Diane D’Arrigo at NIRS: dianed@nirs.org or 301-270-6477

http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/5502/t/0/blastContent.jsp?email_blast_KEY=1378216

http://www.nirs.org

— EPA plans to vastly raise drinking water radioactivity limits; register for July 13 telebriefing “Dangerous Drinking Water”

From Nuclear Information and Resource Service

July 1, 2016

Dear Friends,

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has quietly proposed to raise the allowable levels of radioactivity in drinking water a nuclear incident to hundreds of times their current limits. If this guidance goes through, EPA’s action will allow people to drink water with concentrations of radioactivity at vastly higher levels.

Look no further than the current water crisis in Flint, Michigan to understand concern that the EPA will not act to protect public health in an emergency. In this case, the EPA is attempting to ensure that it would not have to act decisively to protect public health!

But there is still time to act.

Call in to the July 13 telebriefing to find out more.
http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/5502/p/salsa/event/common/public/?event_KEY=81984

You are invited to join us on WEDNESDAY JULY 13 for a national telebriefing: Dangerous Drinking Water, with presentations by leading experts and activists:
•Diane D’Arrigo, Radioactive Waste Project Director, Nuclear Information and Resource Service
•Daniel Hirsch, Director, Program on Environmental and Nuclear Policy, University of California Santa Cruz
•Emily Wurth, Water Program Director, Food and Water Watch

•Moderated by NIRS Executive Director, Tim Judson

The open and free event will be on the phone, starting at 8 pm eastern, 7 pm central, 6 pm mountain and 5 pm pacific. We will reserve the second half of the program for questions and discussion.

Register to attend the July 13 telebriefing.
http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/5502/p/salsa/event/common/public/?event_KEY=81984

The program will focus on EPA Guidance that massively increases the permitted levels of radioactivity in drinking water for years after any nuclear incident that requires consideration of “protective action,” ranging from a spill, leak or transport accident to a dirty bomb or nuclear meltdown—a nuclear accident of any kind, big or small. Allowable concentrations of radioactive elements allowed to come out of your tap would rise hundreds or even thousands of times above the current Maximum Concentration Levels allowed under the Safe Drinking Water Act regulations. Click here to review EPA’s proposal.
https://www.epa.gov/radiation/protective-action-guides-pags

Nuclear Energy is Dirty in many dimensions, but first, and foremost because of its dangerous ionizing radiation. The EPA guidance, allowing us to drink highly radioactive water is a clever effort to bypass existing limits, which the law prevents from being weakened. It is yet another way to shift liability and cleanup costs to the public from industry and government in case of a “nuclear event.” For instance, for most radionuclides the Safe Drinking Water levels are based on no more than 4 millirems a year exposure from drinking water; the proposed water PAGs would allow 500 millirems a year with no notice, and no action to limit exposure to adults. This difference protects the government and industry from any liability from massively increased health consequences.

Although EPA for the first time ever admits that those under 15 years of age are at greater risk than adults the draft PAG only pays lip-service to considering a lower level which is still enormously higher than current water limits. This is in addition to rest of EPA PAGs, which allow even more exposure from air and food.

Call in to learn more about this federal guidance and how to help stop it.
http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/5502/p/salsa/event/common/public/?event_KEY=81984

Thanks for all you do,

Mary Olson, Southeast Office Director

Stay Informed:

NIRS on the web: http://www.nirs.org

http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/5502/t/0/blastContent.jsp?email_blast_KEY=1367594

Hanford has been dumping nuclear waste along the Columbia River and on the Spokane Indian Reservation for years — revelations from Washington (VIDEO)

This information demands immediate investigation. It explains the epidemic of babies born without brains and the cancers in Washington. This is the tip of the iceberg to massive waste contamination across the United States and Canada, and the public and the environment have been put at permanent and severe danger by the nuclear cartel and all its entities. This video of information and maps is riveting. The photos in the “Safe Side of the Fence” show the casual disregard of public safety shown by the nuclear cartel, additionally documented by the casual dumping of barrels of high level nuclear waste into the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

Towns named in the video include Kenniwick, Welpinit, Bonners Ferry, Grand Forks (BC), Sandpoint, Richland.

Mount says that in contrast to news media reports of 3000 gallons leaking, the total is actually 100,000 gallons leaking, and the waste has rotted the bottoms of the storage tanks.

This affects the drinking water and water used for agriculture.
This affects all the agricultural products grown in the region.
This affects tourism. Who would visit Washington (or Idaho) with their family, drink the water, eat the food, or walk through their forests?
This impacts the incredible sacred Columbia River and its vital fishery.
It affects Oregon and particularly Portland and all the towns bordering the Columbia.
And it affects the Pacific Ocean, massively contaminating that sacred entity.

Combined with the U.S. Navy’s escalating use of the Olympic Peninsula and Washington State as a electronics weapons range (which the public is fighting), the military’s contamination of Puget Sound with radioactivity and munitions use, Fukushima radiation pummeling the West Coast, and Washington’s corrupt political establishment, Washington State doesn’t have a prayer for a viable future.

From William Mount
April 20, 2016

http://drwilliammount.blogspot.com

Nevada’s atomic test legacy: underground aquifers are radioactive

…polluted 1.6 trillion gallons of water…About a third of the [underground atomic] tests were conducted directly in aquifers…

Federal drinking water standards in 2009 when this article was written

..For alpha particles, the standard is 15 picocuries per liter; for long-term radionuclides, it’s 50 picocuries per liter

radioactivity in the water reaches millions of picocuries per liter.

From Los Angeles Times

Nevada’s hidden ocean of radiation

by Ralph Vartabedian
November 13, 2009

YUCCA FLAT, NEV. — A sea of ancient water tainted by the Cold War is creeping deep under the volcanic peaks, dry lake beds and pinyon pine forests covering a vast tract of Nevada.

Over 41 years, the federal government detonated 921 nuclear warheads underground at the Nevada Test Site, 75 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Each explosion deposited a toxic load of radioactivity into the ground and, in some cases, directly into aquifers.

When testing ended in 1992, the Energy Department estimated that more than 300 million curies of radiation had been left behind, making the site one of the most radioactively contaminated places in the nation.

During the era of weapons testing, Nevada embraced its role almost like a patriotic duty. There seemed to be no better use for an empty desert. But today, as Nevada faces a water crisis and a population boom, state officials are taking a new measure of the damage.

——————————

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday, November 18, 2009 Correction
Nevada radiation: An article in Friday’s Section A about contaminated water at the Nevada Test Site said the federal drinking water standard for radiation is 20 picocuries per liter. There are actually three standards, depending on the type of radiation: For alpha particles, the standard is 15 picocuries per liter; for long-term radionuclides, it’s 50 picocuries per liter; and for short-lived tritium, it’s 20,000 picocuries per liter. The article also said the test site is northeast of Las Vegas; it is northwest.

—————————-

They have successfully pressured federal officials for a fresh environmental assessment of the 1,375-square-mile test site, a step toward a potential demand for monetary compensation, replacement of the lost water or a massive cleanup.

“It is one of the largest resource losses in the country,” said Thomas S. Buqo, a Nevada hydrogeologist. “Nobody thought to say, ‘You are destroying a natural resource.’ “

In a study for Nye County, where the nuclear test site lies, Buqo estimated that the underground tests polluted 1.6 trillion gallons of water. That is as much water as Nevada is allowed to withdraw from the Colorado River in 16 years — enough to fill a lake 300 miles long, a mile wide and 25 feet deep.

At today’s prices, that water would be worth as much as $48 billion if it had not been fouled, Buqo said.

Although the contaminated water is migrating southwest from the high ground of the test site, the Energy Department has no cleanup plans, saying it would be impossible to remove the radioactivity. Instead, its emphasis is on monitoring.

Federal scientists say the tainted water is moving so slowly — 3 inches to 18 feet a year — that it will not reach the nearest community, Beatty, about 22 miles away, for at least 6,000 years.

Still, Nevada officials reject the idea that a massive part of their state will be a permanent environmental sacrifice zone.

Access to more water could stoke an economic boom in the area, local officials say. More than a dozen companies want to build solar electric generation plants, but the county cannot allow the projects to go forward without more water, said Gary Hollis, a Nye County commissioner.

The problem extends beyond the contamination zone. If too much clean water is pumped out of the ground from adjacent areas, it could accelerate the movement of tainted water. When Nye County applied for permits in recent years to pump clean water near the western boundary of the test site, the state engineer denied the application based on protests by the Energy Department.

(The department did not cite environmental concerns, perhaps to avoid acknowledging the extent of the Cold War contamination. Instead, federal officials said the pumping could compromise security at the test site, which is still in use.)

“Those waters have been degraded,” said Republican state Assemblyman Edwin Goedhart of Nye County, who runs a dairy with 18,000 head of livestock. “That water belongs to the people of Nevada. Even before any contamination comes off the test site, I look at this as a matter of social economic justice.”

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