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Udall, Heinrich Ask EPA to Assess Risk, Deploy Mobile Monitors to WIPP

February 27, 2014
  • WASHINGTON - U.S Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich today sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy asking her to provide public health analysis and deploy mobile environmental monitoring units to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, N.M. The mobile monitors would conduct independent tests and help respond to questions that have arisen from the community about safety following the Feb. 14 radiation leak at WIPP.

    "The health and safety of the Carlsbad community and WIPP personnel are our top priorities. It is critical to ensure the public has access to accurate, timely information," the senators wrote. "As such, we would appreciate EPA's analysis of this event, including an assessment of the amount of radiation that has been released into the atmosphere and how those releases compare to EPA standards of exposure that are considered safe and unsafe."

    The EPA is a key public health agency responsible for setting standards for acceptable levels of both natural and man-made sources of radiation in air, water, soils, and occupational environments. It is the federal environmental regulator of WIPP and it has authority over external radiation releases. EPA has assisted in a similar way in the past - for example, the agency deployed radiation monitors to the Los Alamos area during wildfires in 2000 and 2011.

    Although EPA and the Department of Energy are already coordinating the response to the radiation event, Carlsbad leaders have said they would welcome additional independent information to help residents. The senators have previously urged the DOE to work to communicate regularly and openly with community members and the state.

    "We appreciate the testing being done by DOE and other independent agencies, like the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center and believe the community would benefit from additional information on this situation so that they have the confidence they need that the appropriate federal agencies are providing all possible information and doing everything necessary to ensure their safety," the senators continued.

    Both senators remain in close contact with federal, state, and local officials, including Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories, which are assisting in the response.

    A copy of the letter is available HERE and pasted below:

    The Honorable Gina McCarthy
    Administrator
    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
    1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
    Washington, DC 20460

    Dear Administrator McCarthy,

    We understand that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the primary regulatory authority in regard to any releases of radioactive materials to the environment from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

    In this role, we understand that EPA is closely monitoring the radiological event. We appreciate that EPA has remained in contact with both the Department of Energy (DOE) Carlsbad Field Office and DOE Headquarters. We also appreciate your close coordination with EPA Region 6 and the State of New Mexico Environment Department to share information and streamline communications with DOE.

    The health and safety of the Carlsbad community and WIPP personnel are our top priorities. It is critical to ensure the public has access to accurate, timely information. As such, we would appreciate EPA's analysis of this event, including an assessment of the amount of radiation that has been released into the atmosphere and how those releases compare to EPA standards of exposure that are considered safe and unsafe.

    Additionally, we would like to request that EPA transport its own mobile environmental monitoring units to the WIPP site to conduct independent tests and studies to complement the monitoring assets already in the area. We appreciate the testing being done by DOE and other independent agencies, like the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center and believe the community would benefit from additional information on this situation so that they have the confidence they need that the appropriate federal agencies are providing all possible information and doing everything necessary to ensure their safety.

    Going forward, we encourage you to continue working closely with DOE as the investigation of the release continues and any remediation efforts are conducted.

    U.S. Senator Tom Udall
    U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich

     

    Office Locations

    • Albuquerque
      219 Central Ave NW
      Suite 210
      Albuquerque, NM 87102
      (505) 346-6791

    • Carlsbad
      102 W. Hagerman Street
      Suite A
      Carlsbad, NM 88220
      (575) 234-0366

    • Eastside Office
      100 South Avenue A
      Suite 113
      Portales, NM 88130
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    • Las Cruces
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      Las Cruces, NM 88001 
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    • Santa Fe
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      Santa Fe, NM 87501
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    • Washington, DC
      110 Hart Senate Office Building
      Washington DC, 20510
      (202) 224-6621