During the KRQE TV interview with Eddie Paulsgrove, Stephanie Stringer (NMED Resource Protection Division Director) made the following statements. Here are our responses:
“We don’t have any evidence at this time to show that there is an imminent threat to human health.
NMED does have evidence. They have been provided evidence and evidence has been called to their attention. This material is very dangerous to human health. The material dumped into the landfill meets the New Mexico definition of “Radioactive material.”
Radioactive material is any solid, liquid, or gas the constituents of which, in part or in whole spontaneously emit radiation from unstable nuclei. The radiation generally consists of alpha or beta particles, often accompanied by the emission of gamma radiation. [NM RCB form 016, Application for Radioactive Material License.] Radium — The Total Radium measured in the radioactive material is 7.08 pCi/g. [Hall Environmental Lab, Analytical Water Quality Report, Dec 17, 2007] This exceeds the standard maximum contaminant levels of 5 pCi/G established by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE). [EPA Facts About Radium Information; Paper; DOE, Order 458.1, Radiation Protection of the Public and the Environment; Feb. 201] Therefore, the radioactive material dumped in the landfill is a threat to human health.
Arsenic – Arsenic is a carcinogen and a poison. The standard maximum contaminant level of the radioactive material is 7.07 mg/kg. [New Mexico Soil Screening Guidelines, 2017).
The arsenic content in the radioactive material is 52.83 mg/kg. [Hall Environmental Lab, Analytical Water Quality Report, Dec 17, 2007] That is seven times higher than the standard maximum contaminant level. In fact, the arsenic levels in the dumped radioactive material exceed industrial occupational safety levels. Therefore, the dumped material is a threat to human health. In order for NMED to determine if is or is not an imminent threat, they must test the landfill, the air, and the water.
“But we’re double checking all of the regulatory requirements and making sure that our oversight is thorough. . . .
” According to New Mexico State Law: It is unlawful for a person to possess, use, store, dispose of, manufacture, process, repair or alter any radioactive material unless he holds a license. . . . [Radiation Protection Act, Sections 74-3-1 through 74-3-16 NMSA 1978 ; ARTICLE 3 Radiation Control; 74-3-9. Licensing of radioactive material; appeal. Paragraph A.] Also, It is unlawful for a person to possess, use, store, dispose of, manufacture, process, repair or alter any radioactive material unless he holds a permit. [Radiation Protection Act, Sections 74-3-1 through 74-3-16 NMSA, 1978; Article 3 Radiation Control; 74-3-9. Licensing of radioactive material.] “The public shouldn’t worry about the wind blowing around harmful fumes.” If the radioactive material was dumped on the surface of the landfill (which it probably was), then the public should be worried about the wind blowing around. Radium and Radon (a byproduct of Radium) can become airborne and blown by the wind toward people. Arsenic can also become airborne be a danger to human health. In addition, if leachate collected from the landfill is sprayed back on the surface of the landfill (without testing it for radionuclides and arsenic content), the radium and arsenic could be reintroduced and become airborne again.
“There’s not a [danger] to human exposure at this time.”
In order for NMED to make this statement, they must test the landfill, the air, and the water – which has not been done.
“Whether the radioactive material is actually hazardous waste is something the Department is investigating.”
According to the EPA, this material meets the definition of radioactive waste. As defined in the United States, there are five general categories of radioactive waste. Category 5 is: Technologically enhanced naturally-occurring radioactive material (TENORM): Some radiological material can exist naturally in the environment. In some cases, naturally-occurring radiological material (NORM) can become concentrated through human activity, such as mining or natural resource extraction. NORM that has been concentrated or relocated is known as Technologically Enhanced NORM, or TENORM. Many industries and processes can produce TENORM, including mining, oil and gas drilling and production and water treatment. TENORM wastes must be disposed or managed according to state regulations. [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency]
“Soil can contain radioactive material. It doesn’t make it radioactive waste that would prevent it from being disposed at a landfill.”
Nearly all soil contains trace amounts of radioactive material, which is not harmful to human health.
Both the federal government and the State of New Mexico have set maximum contaminant levels for radioactive material. When such material is analyzed and exceeds these established levels, it is categorized as radioactive waste. [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as noted above.] The radioactive material in question has been analyzed and it exceeds government-set maximum contaminant levels for radium and arsenic. [Hall Environmental Report, 2007]