CONTAMINATED SAND SLATED FOR IDAHO DUMP SITE
By Jessie Bonner
May 2, 2008
http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/northwest/story/350092.html (paragraphs 16-20 omitted)
Nearly 80 rail cars loaded with contaminated sand from Kuwait are headed toward a dump in southwestern Idaho.
American Ecology Corp. is shipping about 6,700 tons of sand containing traces of depleted uranium and lead to a hazardous waste disposal site 70 miles southeast of Boise. The sand arrived by ship at Longview, Wash., this week and company officials say loads are scheduled to begin arriving in Idaho by rail in two weeks.
Transfer of the sand to the United States was first reported this week by the *Daily News* in Longview.
The company has previously disposed of low-level radioactive waste and hazardous materials from U.S. military bases overseas at facilities in Idaho, Nevada, and Texas, said American Ecology spokesman Chad Hyslop, who is based in Boise.
"As you can imagine, the host countries of those bases don't want the waste in their country," Hyslop said.
Neither do leaders of the Snake River Alliance, a nuclear watchdog group, who have vowed to monitor the site.
"Depleted uranium is both a toxic metal and a radioactive substance," said Andrea Shipley, the group's executive director. "That is a concern."
The sand coming to Idaho from Camp Doha, a U.S. Army Base in Kuwait, was contaminated with uranium after military vehicles and munitions caught fire during the first Iraq war in 1991. Depleted uranium, twice as dense as lead, has been used as a component in armor plating to protect tanks and for armor-piercing projectiles.
The Kuwait Ministry of Defense contracted MKM Engineers Inc. of Stafford, Texas, to package the waste and transport it to the United States. MKM then subcontracted with American Ecology for disposal, Hyslop said.
Hyslop would not disclose the value of the contract.
American Ecology operates the only commercial hazardous waste disposal site in Idaho on 1,100 acres of land in the Owyhee desert. Disposal operations cover 100 acres in the middle of the property, Hyslop said, and about a third of the material disposed at the Idaho site is from the U.S. military.
The company disposed of uranium-contaminated Bradley fighting vehicles there in 2006.
All the sand from Kuwait should be in Idaho within 40 days, Hyslop said. Radiation from the uranium in the sand has been measured at about 10 picocuries per gram. The Idaho facility is permitted to accept material with more than 16 times that level, or 169 picocuries per gram.
In a letter to Army officials on Sept. 13, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission deemed the radiation levels "unimportant quantities" and approved the plan to dispose the sand in Idaho.
"We've received tens of thousands of tons from the U.S. military that has higher radioactive levels than this shipment," Hyslop said.
Idaho Department of Environmental Quality Director Brian Monson said the company is permitted to receive the material and contacted his office three months ago.
"They always give us an alert if it's something out of the ordinary," Monson said.
The company notified Monson again this week when military officials tested the sand and found traces of lead.
"It was only until the last hour we realized we might be dealing with a hazardous material," Monson said.
The company has said the sand will be tested and treated if needed before it is buried in the dump.
Some samples of the sand registered lead levels of 19 parts per million, Hyslop said. He characterized that measurement as "extremely low," but Environmental Protection Agency standard classify anything over five parts per million as hazardous waste.
EPA officials say they're not alarmed by the presence of lead because that is one of the materials American Ecology is permitted to handle in Idaho.
"Whether it's hazardous or not doesn't matter," said Cheryl Williams, an EPA specialist in Seattle.
CONTAMINATED SAND HEADED FOR OWYHEE COUNTY
By Adam Rodriguez
KBCI-TV 2 (Boise, Idaho) May 2008
OWYHEE COUNTY -- The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality says the U.S. Army is sending 6,700 tons of sand to a hazardous waste disposal site in the Owyhee Desert 70 miles southeast of Boise.
The sand is coming from Kuwait, where it was contaminated by an ammunition fire. It contains a hazardous level of lead, and measurable amounts of depleted uranium.
When asked if the sand is dangerous, Chad Hyslop, the project manager with American Ecology said, “It's not something you want laying around in Kuwait”
Hyslop said their facility at Grand View has been accepting military waste for 20 years. Even though this load of sand is tainted with lead and depleted uranium, they deal with waste several times more hazardous on a daily basis.
But any amount of waste is too much for the Snake River Alliance, an enery industry watchdog. Executive Director Andrea Shipley said radioactive waste never goes away.
“We have enough (waste) currently,” Shipley said. “And to generate more, there's no place to put it. There's no room for nuclear waste in Idaho.”
Follow the money, follow the attitude
LAROCCO TO OTTER, RISCH: NO CONTAMINATED SAND TO IDAHO
By Jill Kuraitis
New West (Missoula, Montana)
May 5, 2008
On Monday, U.S. Senate candidate Larry LaRocco asked Gov. C.L. (Butch) Otter and Lt. Gov. Jim Risch to stop 150 rail cars loaded with radioactive sand from entering Idaho. His staff hand delivered letters to each office.
In Idaho, the story of the shipment was first published here on NewWest.Net/Boise.
“I am asking you to stop this dangerous shipment of radioactive material bound for Idaho, for the sake of a clean environment, for the sake of precedent and for the safety of our children,” LaRocco wrote in his letter to Otter and Risch. Risch is LaRocco’s likely Republican opponent for the Senate seat now held by Larry Craig.
The U.S. Army is shipping 6,700 tons of contaminated sand to Idaho from Kuwait. It will arrive at American Ecology in Grandview, Idaho, sometime in May. The sand is from Camp Doha in Kuwait, a former Army warehouse complex used by Army Forces Central Command. The sand absorbed depleted uranium when some spent ammunition was caught in a fire during the first Gulf War.
LaRocco said the Kuwaiti desert is a better place for the sand, which contains lead and depleted uranium.
“Accepting this waste in the United States is poor public policy and environmentally unsound for Idaho,” LaRocco writes. “Let’s not turn Idaho into the world’s dump.”
LaRocco also notes past leaders, former Gov. Cecil Andrus and former Gov. Phil Batt, took firm stances against bringing hazardous materials to Idaho. He urged Risch to put aside partisanship and follow their examples.
In November 2007, American Ecology’s PAC gave $2,300 to Jim Risch’s Senate campaign. The PAC had previously given $1,000 to Risch’s 2006 race for Lt. Governor. Since 2002, the AE PAC has given more that $20,000 to the campaigns of Otter, Risch, Senators Larry Craig and Mike Crapo, and Reps. Bill Sali and Mike Simpson.
“Let’s stop this now,” LaRocco writes. “It’s time for sound public policy to trump powerful special interests that hold sway over Idaho.”
I’ve called called American Ecology nine times since May 30 and asked to speak to their communications director, Chad Hyslop, but he has never returned a call. Several times, I was put on hold and told, “He’ll be right with you,” only to have someone else pick up the phone and tell me “he isn’t available,” a line which was repeated no matter what I said or asked. I also called the company’s landfill site and left a message for its director; the call is unreturned.
Diary of a mad voter
LIVING IN A PRIVATIZED IDAHO
By Joan McCarter
May 6, 2008
One of the slogans that resonated most strongly throughout the 2006 campaign season in Idaho was Jerry Brady’s “Idaho is Not for Sale.” Two years after his defeat, someone observing recent political news from the state has to wonder if a chunk or two of it hasn’t been sold.
First there’s the news, broken by *New West*’s Jill Kuraitis, that Idaho was the intended recipient of 6,700 tons of highly contaminated -- and potentially highly dangerous -- Kuwaiti sand. First, let’s just consider the insanity of actually shipping 6,700 tons of contaminated anything the thousands of miles from its current home in Kuwait to Owyhee County, Idaho.
The AP, picking up the story after New West broke it, adds this sharp insight from the contractor behind this whole deal: "The company has previously disposed of low-level radioactive waste and hazardous materials from U.S. military bases overseas at facilities in Idaho, Nevada, and Texas, said American Ecology spokesman Chad Hyslop, who is based in Boise.
"'As you can imagine, the host countries of those bases don’t want the waste in their country,' Hyslop said."
Go figure!? Hard to imagine that the Kuwaitis aren’t anxious to have sand contaminated with depleted uranium and lead staying behind when the U.S. military (maybe someday) leaves. But it gets better.
"Some samples of the sand registered lead levels of 19 parts per million, Hyslop said. He characterized that measurement as 'extremely low,' but Environmental Protection Agency standard classify anything over five parts per million as hazardous waste.
"EPA officials say they’re not alarmed by the presence of lead because that is one of the materials American Ecology is permitted to handle in Idaho.
"'Whether it’s hazardous or not doesn’t matter,' said Cheryl Williams, an EPA specialist in Seattle."
It might not particularly matter to the EPA specialist in Seattle whether the sand is hazardous, but chances are it does to the people in Grandview, and maybe even in Boise, just 70 miles away. They probably would have liked to have had some discussions with some elected officials and representatives from the company, American Ecology Corp. before finding out that the shipments were a done deal. And speaking of deals, this aspect of the story is disturbing: "Most recently, the firm’s PAC, AEC PAC, gave $2,300 to Idaho Republican Jim Risch’s U.S. Senate campaign and $500 to the re-election campaign of state House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star. Both those contributions were in November. Since 2002, AEC PAC has donated $3,000 to Sen. Larry Craig; $4,500 to Sen. Mike Crapo, $1,750 to U.S. Rep. Bill Sali; and $3,000 to U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, all Republicans. The PAC also gave $1,000 to Risch’s lieutenant governor campaign in 2006; $5,000 to Gov. Butch Otter’s gubernatorial campaign in 2005; $3,100 to Otter’s congressional campaigns from 2002 to 2004; and contributions to an array of state legislative candidates from both parties."
This is not to suggest that Idaho’s elected officials haven’t done due diligence on this plan because of campaign donations, but given the fact that this project only now came to light -- as the sand is being shipped -- the people of Idaho deserve some assurance that yes, due diligence has been done.
Luckily, Idaho has received forewarning of another government contractor hoping to find a happy and profitable home in Idaho. But this is a much more high profile, and much more controversial, company: "COEUR d’ALENE -- Blackwater Worldwide, a private security company, wants to build a regional law enforcement training center in North Idaho.
"The North Carolina-based company is negotiating a contract with the Idaho Peace Officer Standards & Training Academy to provide space and instruction to law enforcement personnel. . . . Sheriff Rocky Watson expressed concern that Blackwater, which has big military contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense, partnering with Idaho POST will create the wrong impression with the public.
"'The perception that our law enforcement officers will be trained by mercenaries is a problem,' Watson said. 'Our jobs are totally different. We’re not paramilitary. The perception is important to our customers.'
"Blackwater officials strongly maintain that no military training will take place at the facility here. . . . The company has faced media scrutiny about its role in Iraq. Blackwater is one of three big contractors providing security services to key U.S. personnel. DynCorp., and Triple Canopy also have employees deployed there.
"Blackwater personnel are accused of gunning down 17 people, including women and children last September in Iraq. The FBI is investigating claims made by witnesses that Blackwater guards shot and killed without provocation."
Blackwater has already been proven to have committed fraud in its accounting system for its no-bid, multimillion dollar Iraq contract. Further allegations of waste, fraud, and abuse against Blackwater should be enough to make any government turn tail when approached by the company offering its training services. Seriously, are these the folks that should be telling future Idaho law enforcement officers how to operate?
One of disadvantages of Idaho’s long years of one-party rule might be the idea that it’s an easy target for some of these politically well-connected private contractors -- the reception by Idaho lawmakers and officials seems to be pretty friendly, until you get to the local level, where folks like Sheriff Watson are involved. These are the people that have to deal with the consequences of the decisions made by more powerful political leaders.
It’s time for Idaho to think about whether they want their state to be the nation’s toxic waste dump or one of the operating bases for the Bush administration’s unaccountable mercenary police force. It’s also time for Idaho’s citizens to think about whether they want to keep the leaders who’ve allowed these contractors into the state around much longer.
--Editor’s note: Joan McCarter’s weekly blogs are part of NewWest.Net/Politics’ “Diary of a Mad Voter” feature, a group blog, published in partnership with the *Denver Post*’s Politics West intended give a glimpse into the hearts and minds of several independent-minded voters and thinkers in the Rocky Mountain West in the ‘08 election cycle.
IDAHO COMPANY TAKES IN MILLIONS BY TAKING IN TOXIC WASTE
May 8, 2008
BOISE, Idaho -- Boise-based American Ecology Corporation brought in 800,000 tons of industrial hazardous waste from 37 states for disposal in southwest Idaho last year.
The company also owns hazardous waste disposal sites in Nevada, Texas, and Washington.
Last year it reported $165.5 million in revenue and a gross profit of $45.5 million.
Company officials say the more the company makes, the more Idaho benefits.
A 2006 economic impact analysis found American Ecology's annual economic contribution in Idaho is $51 million in taxes, payroll, and direct and indirect spending.
Andrea Shipley is director of the Boise-based Snake River Alliance, a nuclear watchdog group.
She says the risks of bringing in hazardous waste to the state outweigh financial benefits to the state.
The company is currently in the process of shipping about 6,700 tons of sand containing traces of depleted uranium and lead from Kuwait.
SHIP WITH KUWAITI SAND DELAYED AT SEA
By Erik Olson
Daily News (Longview, WA)
April 25, 2008
A ship carrying low levels of hazardous material from a U.S. Army base in Kuwait likely will receive clearance to enter the country and unload at the Port of Longview this weekend, according to the disposal company and a federal agency.
The BBC Alabama has been held up outside the Columbia River while American Ecology, the disposal company, obtains approval to enter the river from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said Chad Hyslop, spokesman for the Idaho-based company.
The ship is carrying 6,700 tons of sand contaminated by depleted uranium following a 1991 fire at Camp Doha. The U.S. Army recently discovered lead deposits within the sand, which could classify the material as a hazardous waste and require a four-week delay to enter the country.
However, EPA officials have known the shipment is coming since November, and they see no additional danger with the discovery of the lead, said Cheryl Williams, an environmental protection specialist in the agency’s office of compliance and enforcement.
“There’s no reason for me to make them wait the full 28 days,” Williams said.
The sand is packaged in bags designed to hold hazardous waste, then placed in containers. The level of lead content is low and likely less dangerous than touching lead-based paint on an older home, Williams said.
A preliminary sample of the sand had a concentration -- 19 milligrams per liter of lead -- about four times higher than the EPA’s limit for hazardous materials.
Based on that reading, the Army decided “to err on the side of safety and handle the waste as hazardous for transport purposes,” said Army spokesman Dave Foster, spokesman for the U.S. Army in the Pentagon.
The cargo is bound for a disposal site in Grand View, Idaho, which is designed to handle both hazardous and non-hazardous waste.
Hyslop said he hopes to start unloading the 306 containers on the vessel on Saturday. Longshoremen will need five shifts, or about two-and-a-half days, to unload the entire vessel, he said.
The cost of the disposal of the tainted sand was borne by the Kuwaiti government, Hyslop said. Foster, the Army spokesman, said he believed that to be true, but he didn’t know Friday if any U.S. tax dollars were spent on the project.
The Port of Longview is receiving $145,000 in fees to accept the vessel, port Director Ken O’Hollaren said.
IDAHO ENERGY UPDATE
By Ken Miller
Snake River Alliance
May 9, 2008
. . .
II: SAND TRAP: TOXIC KUWAIT SAND BEGINS ARRIVING IN IDAY -- MORE ON ITS WAY
Idahoans continued to light up the switchboards on radio call-in shows and jam the blogs in outrage over how a shipment of 6,700 tons of contaminated sand could have left Kuwait several weeks ago without the U.S. Army first telling the recipients of the waste that it also contained unexpectedly high levels of lead.
The toxic sand was contaminated during an accident at a U.S. Army base during the first Gulf War when Army vehicles and munitions caught fire, leeching [sic] the depleted uranium from the munitions into the sand and rendering it contaminated. The sand has since been dug up, placed in special bags, and then in shipping containers, and then sent via ship to Washington State, where environmental regulators realized it was more contaminated than first believed. The first shipments of the sand have already arrived in Idaho at the U.S. Ecology [sic -- the company's name is American Ecology Corporation] waste site in Owyhee County, and another shipment will soon be on its way.
U.S. Ecology [sic] and various state and federal agencies say the contamination levels in the shipments are well within tolerances of what the Grand View facility can handle. In fact, the site has disposed of previous shipments in recent years, and all have been certified as meeting health and safety standards.
The issue now is whether Idaho will consider taking a fresh look at the kinds of materials allowed to be buried at private or government-owned dumps within its borders, and also whether such shipments should be more thoroughly inspected before they leave their point of origin.