Page 27


;f 4gT<:. ,, HUDSPETH COUNTY HERALD Container designed to store radioactive waste The authority responded to the increasing local opposition with public meetings. But the comments of Jacobi, which downplayed the danger of the low-level waste, and an attitude by state agency that was less than straightforWard, only served to intensify the opposition. "I know that the dump waste has to go somewhere," said Sister Frances, "but the authority has been so deceptive, they've lied to us from the beginning." Jacobi's comment that much of the waste that is to be stored in the facility will be benign enough to slip into his own back pocket drew sharper criticism from other local organizers. "Their attitude is patronizing, insulting, and degrading," said Dominguez. Although local opponents had managed to unite the community, it was only when El Paso County decided to join with Hudspeth County in opposing the dump that Fort Hancock residents felt they had a chance in deterring the state from building the site. El Paso County Judge Luther Jones says the decision to enter the dispute was based on the fact that West Texas would receive none of the benefits and all of the problems associated with the waste. "Our principal thrust was that it wasn't fair," said Jones. Most of the Texas-generated waste that will be sent to the .dump comes from the state's two nuclear power plants at Glen Rose and Bay City. Together they produce 78 percent of the waste and 99 percent of the state's radioactivity, according to the authority. "We readily admit that less than 1 percent of the waste comes from El Paso," said Jacobi. "The vast majority comes from a triangle bounded by Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio." That means that most of the waste will have to be transported 500 to 600 miles across the state from the South Texas Nuclear Power Plant in Bay City and the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant in Glen Rose. Since much of the radioactive waste currently produced in Texas is shipped through downtown El Paso \(en contends that the new dump site, east of El Paso, would actually improve the city's situation. Although the transportation issue is of concern, it is dwarfed by the magnitude of the other problems associated with the site. THE POLITICS OF SITE SELECTION In their voluminous report "Siting of a LowLevel Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility in Texas," Dames & Moore, an environmental engineering consulting firm, studied all the counties in the state to locate a site suitable for the low-level waste facility. At a cost of nearly $1 million to the state, the study considered everything from archaeology, demography, and geology, to land use, hydrometeorology, and transportation issues. In this original analysis, 45 percent of Hudspeth County was excluded from consideration because it did not meet certain standards. After the study was released, the authority, encouraged by a bill then making its way through the Legislature, requiring that state lands be given preference in the site-selection process, had Dames & Moore reevaluate state lands. Miraculously, says Frownfelter, a map that once excluded the current Hudspeth County site from consideration suddenly had a hole in it. "The geology had changed considerably in five or six months," said Frownfelter. Concerns about unsuitable topography, major faulting, and groundwater recharging were suddenly not of interest, Frownfelter said. Jacobi contends that the original study just hadn't been as thorough as it should have been, and that the current Hudspeth County site merely needed further study. "It's among the very best of the sites in the state," said Jacobi. According to Jacobi the land north of Fort Hancock compares favorably to the two previous locations the state agency had targeted -one in McMullen County and the other near Asherton in Dimmit County. Both of these sites met with strong opposition THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7