Rep. Lon Burnam: Let's Tell Texas What Scientists Think About Radioactive Waste Site

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In a letter Monday, state Representative Lon Burnam called upon Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to allow him to release confidential documents he says prove state regulatory scientists fear a West Texas radioactive waste disposal facility may contaminate groundwater for thousands of years to come.

Waste Control Specialists is set to reap millions in disposal fees from clients all over the country should state regulators allow it to open. The company is a subsidiary of Dallas-based Contran Corp., owned by Harold Simmons. According to The Center for Responsive Politics, Simmons is the second-most prolific disclosed political donor in the country, giving more than $12 million to outside spending groups seeking to influence federal elections. He is also, of course, a top donor to the governor.

It's the classic pay-to-play scenario: First he lobbied the state Legislature to pass a bill allowing private companies to handle radioactive waste. Then he got a second law passed that allowed only one company to get such a license. Simmons' company was the only company that applied.

Back in 2008, TCEQ geologists and engineers concluded that WDS' application to dispose of radioactive waste at a site near Andrews, a few hours northwest of Midland, should be denied because the water table was too near the dump. High rainfall, they feared, could cause water to seep into the waste, potentially contaminating the entire water table -- potentially even the multistate sprawling Ogallala Aquifer. Simmons' application had its own inertia behind it, though, and several TCEQ staffers resigned in protest. The same year Waste Control Specialists' disposal licenses were approved, the executive chairman of the state environmental commission quit to become a lobbyist for the company.

In 2009, Burnam filed a public record request for agency documents related to WCS' application. TCEQ released the information, but Burnam says he was forced to sign a confidentiality agreement. Now, he's calling upon Abbott to issue a ruling saying the documents can be released. Before the state regulator gives WCS the final go-ahead, he says, the public should know.

In a report to the TCEQ from the company, provided by Burnam's office, WCS notes that between November 2011 and March 2012, it has pumped more than 23,000 gallons from one of the disposal wells, indicating they may not be isolated from the water table.

"Until we know the source of this water, the likelihood of groundwater contamination, and the risk to the public, it's simply irresponsible to open this site," Burnam says.


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13 comments
trudat
trudat

This is the type of thing you have to expect when we put "ownership society" folk in charge of our health and safety.  Some things are just too important to be trusted to folks who just want to make a few million bucks.  I think that all the facts about this should be public information and those who try to hide the information should be charged with serious crimes. 

joe
joe

RADIOACTIVE WATER...either a cure or a cause for Cancer....pay your money, take your chances. wheeeeeeeeee

Case Closer
Case Closer

Hmmm... from now on, at the end of every report I write for my clients regarding potential groundwater contamination within 100 miles of Andrews, my closing argument to the TCEQ, RRC or NMOCD will be - who cares, the water is not usable due to radioactivity.  Not that many people really care anyway - other than the lawyers for the 'ranchers', and the ranchers kids that get their land bought for them year after year by the O&G companies due to frivolous lawsuits, while reaping in millions in royalties from those companies, then using the proceeds to hire 'their' politicians and regulatory commissioners.

oakcliffgirl
oakcliffgirl

Anything having to do with radioactivity and public health should be public. Peried. End of discussion. So what do we need to do to get this message across????

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

Harold Simmons: BIG contributor to Dallas in every way. He and his wife are Oprah's neighbors in California, friend of Rick the Dick. Watch how NO ONE in City Hall will act like they know him.You might say, he is radioactive..........................................................Sad for all of us.

james
james

atomic waste and fracking earthquakes are on the way. as long as the rich git richer, who cares. 

primi timpano
primi timpano

A confidentiality agreement over public records?  Never heard of such a thing.  They usually either release or don't, and if they you go to court.  What is the context here?

DonW
DonW

 According to the Dmag article,

"TCEQ executive director Glenn Shankle, who served as the liaison between the review team and the commissioners, left his position shortly after the issuance of the byproduct material license in May 2008. Records obtained by the Texas Observer reveal that Shankle had several meetings with WCS officials, attorneys, and lobbyists during his tenure. He was visited at his office at least once by Kent Hance, a WCS investor and chancellor of the Texas Tech University System. Six months after leaving TCEQ, Shankle became a lobbyist for WCS."

Kinda makes your skin crawl, doesn't it?

Syd_Nancy
Syd_Nancy

...He was sued by his own children for contributing to politicians in their names...he has the only 4 story building in highland park, it's against code, it is a 2 million dollar tower built...for star gazing?...he is evil.

gladnotsad
gladnotsad

Your state government at work............... Your fearless AG Abbott ,with the help of TDH , is also defending us from those dangerous less expensive Canadian IUDs.

primi timpano
primi timpano

 Do not legislators have immunity in these circumstances?

Paul
Paul

 In the early 70's there was the Sharpstown Bank Scandal ...

http://www.google.com/#hl=en&a...

The popular bumper sticker at the time was:

"Texas: Best Politicians that Money Can Buy."

So, 50 odd years later, why are you surprised and what else is new?

Brantley Hargrove
Brantley Hargrove

 If what Burnam says is true, not in this case. He's asking Abbott for a ruling to grant him immunity.

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