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Air Force ships Calif. radioactive waste to Idaho landfill

After California regulators refused to allow the U.S. Air Force to label residue from radioactive aircraft instruments as “naturally occurring” – declaring it unsuitable for a Bakersfield-area dump – the military turned to Idaho with the same story.

There, military officials met with success. The Air Force is now sending radioactive waste from Sacramento County’s McClellan Air Force Base to a Grand View, Idaho, hazardous waste landfill.

This solution involved a bit of legal semantics rejected in California despite 10 months of Air Force lobbying: The military claimed radium dust left over from glow-in-the-dark aircraft instruments actually was naturally occurring, putting it the same relatively lax regulatory category as mine tailings, according to government memos obtained by California Watch through a public records request.

Larry Morgan, a health physicist with the California Department of Public Health, disagreed with that characterization. Radioactive paint does not “meet the definition” of naturally occurring waste, he wrote in a September 2011 memo.

The Idaho facility’s permit allows it to accept materials defined as natural without notifying state regulators, leaving the state’s hazardous waste manager in the dark.


“I’m not familiar with this particular waste stream. I intend to find out now that you’ve contacted me,” Robert Bullock, hazardous waste permits manager for the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, said during an October interview.

Filed under: Environment, Daily Report


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Feds tell El Dorado County to clean up old garbage

El Dorado County has agreed to spend around $7 million to clean up a polluted and abandoned garbage dump outside the city of South Lake Tahoe.

The settlement, announced last week, is the result of claims filed against the county by the U.S Justice Department and U.S. Forest Service to clean up the Meyers Landfill site.

The site is a former garbage dump located on National Forest System lands. It was used as a landfill site between 1946 and 1971. El Dorado County held permits from 1955 until the site closed.

Toxic chemicals, including vinyl chloride, were detected below the site in the early 1990s. In 1996, the Forest Service found these chemicals downstream in Saxon Creek, a tributary of Lake Tahoe.

The Forest Service turned to the Superfund law to get it cleaned up, and in 2001, filed litigation against El Dorado County and the city of South Lake Tahoe.

The settlement requires that the county construct an impermeable cap over the site, keeping as much rain and snow out as possible. It is water that carries the chemicals into groundwater.

Gerry Silva, director of El Dorado’s Environmental Management Department, said capping the 10-acre landfill should be finished by the end of the summer. Already, the county has contracted a project engineer and construction company to begin the work.

The Forest Service will monitor and supervise the project with the county.


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