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July 9, 2003 Public Meeting Summary with Public Comments / Questions & Answers

Historical Document

This page is archived for historical purposes and is no longer being maintained or updated.

Historical Document

This page is archived for historical purposes and is no longer being maintained or updated.

(Slides are reproduced from presentation; speaker comments follow.)
(Statements are not direct quotes, they are paraphrased.)
(Public comments and questions made during the meeting are preceded by the word “Public.” Response to the questions/comments are preceded by the responder’s name when available.)

Project Update, Outlook for Continued Work

Time 5:00-7:00 p.m.
Location Northern New Mexico Community College
Española, New Mexico
Speakers Phil Green, CDC Project Officer (Contract Status)
Tom Widner, Project Director (Project Update)
Charles Miller, CDC (Project Flow)

Phil Green openned the meeting summarizing the contract history and status. Tom Widner presented project accomplishments, plans to complete the contract, contract deliverables and preliminary findings regarding plutonium. Charles Miller summarized the history of the project and presented issues that need to be resolved to continue the work.

The meeting concluded with public comments and questions.

Note: Slides introducing the project were presented at the first public meeting. To review this background information, please see the February 23, 1999 meeting summary and slides.

Slides & Notes Phil Green (Introduction)
Tom Widner (Project Update)
Charles Miller (Project Flow)
Public Comments / Questions and Answers

Phil Green (Introduction)

Slide 1

Slide 1 of 2

The purpose of the meeting is to discuss two issues: 1) the contract that is in place and 2) the LAHDRA project. We will discuss current work and the future of the project. Following Dr. Miller's presentation, the floor will be open for comments. We will use as much time as necessary to respond.

Slide 2

Slide 2 of 2

In 1998, the contract was awarded. The same personnel are still involved. Originally, the contract was set up for three years. In 2001, it became apparent that three years would not be enough time. Paul Renard, the project officer at that time, pushed for an extension, which was granted. An additional five years were added, extending the contract to 2006.

There are two elements to this type of contract: 1) a time limit and 2) a funding limit. We are within 10 percent of the contract ceiling of $4.2 million. It is not policy to increase the contract ceiling substantially. We are at the point where the ceiling will soon be reached, and there is still much to be done. CDC has asked ENSR to prepare a final report about the project and what has been accomplished to date. The draft is due in December, and a final version should be issued in March 2004. CDC will use the report to determine if they will award another contract.

Tom Widner (Project Update)

Slide 1

Slide 1 of 16

We have been in the information gathering stage for the last four years.

Slide 2

Slide 2 of 16

Tonight we will report the status of the document review effort and describe the work products that we will be delivering over the next year. These work products will include a report, a database of relevant information that we have located, and copies of relevant records in paper form and as scanned images.

Slide 3

Slide 3 of 16

We originally planned to review record collections in series. For example, we planned to complete the Central Records Center and then move on to the LANL Archives. But, because of restrictions placed on the number of people allowed to work in particular areas at a given time, we had to change the contract so we could spread out and work in a number of records centers at one time.

Slide 4

Slide 4 of 16

One of the questions we are asked is, "why aren't we further along?" This slide presents a summary of the issues we encountered:

  • We are required to be escorted when we enter a records repository at LANL. This has not been the case in projects we have conducted at other DOE sites. The availability of laboratory staff to act as escorts is limited, and this has had an impact on productivity.
  • Five, and later six, categories of information were identified by LANL personnel, to which we are to be denied access.
  • LANL imposed a requirement that all documents be prescreened by their "owners" before our Q-cleared analysts can review them Under approved security procedures, LANL staff are required to separate out "deniable category material." This has been a requirement that Lab staff have had a hard time meeting.
  • Document owners or custodians have in many cases asked us to review documents by title alone. We prefer to not follow this practice, as titles can be misleading or are often poor indicators of a document's contents.
  • A process was put onto paper under which we could appeal the cases when we are denied access to documents that we believe we should be able to review. In December 2001, we submitted our first appeal. We have still not received a response on that appeal letter, except for a request that it be resubmitted to a different person. We have not received any response to the resubmitted appeal letter either. The defensibility and public credibility of our project depends on our ability to have unhindered access to records that may be relevant to off-site releases or health effects.
  • We were initially allowed to review some classified technical reports in the LANL Reports Collection that were issued by other entities. But then LANL officials decided that they could not grant us access to documents that they did not produce.
  • The availability of classification reviewers has also been limited. Two reviews are required to declassify or downgrade some documents. For some time, only a single reviewer was available, and recently the LANL contract for providing classification reviewers expired. The availability of classification reviewers is currently a bottleneck in the process for public release of relevant historical documents.

Slide 5

Slide 5 of 16

The status of our progress is summarized here:

  • LANL Central Records Center: The project team will have reviewed all paper records by the time our work under this contract is complete.
  • LANL Archives: The Archives are in the same building as the LANL Central Records Center. Because we have been working at the Records Center under a two-person limit, we have not begun review the Archives portion of the building.
  • Technical Areas: We will complete review of the documents at ALDNW (Nuclear Weapons Directorate), ES&H, and at LANSCE.
  • Work for Others: We have come across some documents related to work for others, but we have not conducted specific searches targeting collections of these records.

Slide 6

Slide 6 of 16

More than 3,500 relevant documents have been summarized. Information from the associated document summaries has been added to a project information database. More than 1,350 of the most useful documents were scanned and are linked to the database. The collection is currently available in paper form at the Zimmerman Library of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. We are working on ways to make the collection available at other locations, since it will soon be available as scanned images on a DVD or six CDs. We will try to make the collection available at Northern New Mexico Community College in Espa?ola, Mesa Public Library in Los Alamos, and Santa Fe Community College.

Slide 7

Slide 7 of 16

Joe Shonka will be available after our presentations to demonstrate how to search the database and access document images. This is a portion of the basic search form in the Microsoft Access database. You enter any search term. In this example, I chose "accident."

Slide 8

Slide 8 of 16

The query yields a series of document summary forms, including this one about an enriched uranium release event. This portion of the results screen shows the document's title, authors, original document location, etc. from the document summary form (DSF).

Slide 9

Slide 9 of 16

At the bottom of the DSF, there is a link to the scanned document's image file in PDF format. If you have the image file on your hard drive, it will be opened when you click on the link. Otherwise, you can insert the DVD or the numbered CD that is indicated.

Slide 10

Slide 10 of 16

This shows the actual PDF image of the scanned document. This is the first major dose reconstruction project in which the documents have been available in this way.

Slide 11

Slide 11 of 16

The documents, although scanned, are searchable because application of an optical character recognition (OCR) program was part of the scanning process. Currently, the Acrobat Reader search feature can be used to search within a document that is open. Soon, we hope to have a search engine that will search across all the scanned documents in the collection. This will be a powerful research tool for finding information about a particular subject in our document collection.

Slide 12

Slide 12 of 16

CDC has asked us to tie up the project using existing funding. Given that this must occur, we suggested to CDC that the following tasks be undertaken as high priority:

  • We will go through the incident reports and other documents to develop a chronology of episodic or off-normal events. This will be helpful to identify release pathways, such as unmonitored releases or incidents that resulted in contamination being tracked home by workers.
  • We are adding a section on tritium use. Reported tritium releases before 1968 are considerably lower than those after 1968. At the same time, we have seen reports of tritium release events before 1968 that appear to not be included in official release estimates. We will include information from the 1950s and 1960s under the thermalnuclear weapon programs.
  • Some documents are stuck in the pipeline. That is, we have selected them as relevant, but they have not yet been cleared for public release. We will make sure that as many documents as possible are released before we finalize our report.
  • We are pursuing records from the Legal Database. Records were assembled by LANL in support of various lawsuits, including some dealing with brain cancer litigation and the Clean Air Act. The Legal Database includes a fairly extensive collection of documents that were scanned and indexed.
  • We will review recent additions to the ESH Records Center.
  • We will interview top interview candidates. We had a relatively slow start with interviewing because we wanted to be knowledgeable about LANL before we conducted interviews. We will spend a week or so with top priority candidates to fill in gaps in our knowledge and make sure we are correctly interpreting key documents.

Slide 13

Slide 13 of 16

We put out a preliminary draft report last year. We will work as long as we can to review documents and evaluate their contents. We will deliver a draft final report in December. It will contain a summary of activities, as summarized on this slide. The report will start to identify those releases that are most important as off-site health hazards.

Slide 14

Slide 14 of 16

One area of particular focus as we are prioritizing past releases is early plutonium releases. Airborne plutonium releases were not monitored until 1948, and monitoring was primitive up to the mid-1950s. We are looking at these releases from different angles to evaluate what could have been released. Sources of information include effluent monitoring data that are available, soil measurements, and measurements in human tissue samples.

Slide 15

Slide 15 of 16

To help us prioritize plutonium releases, we are looking at soil samples. Because soil serves as an integrator of plutonium that deposits on the ground, soil samples can be valuable indicators of past airborne releases. Modeling helps us determine how high airborne releases would had to have been to be consistent with levels found in soil samples. Our preliminary estimates indicate that airborne plutonium releases could have been hundreds of times higher than the 1.2 Ci asserted by LANL. We are doing our best to put past plutonium releases in perspective. At a minimum, we believe that early plutonium releases warrant a closer look in any follow-up work.

Slide 16

Slide 16 of 16

Human tissues were collected by LANL to see how much plutonium was present in the bodies of people who lived in New Mexico and across the country. While the identities of the tissue donors is protected, we have been able to identify where and when the people lived based on public records such as obituaries, cemetery records, and old telephone books. The draft final report will contain our analysis, and we will hold another meeting in December to describe our findings.

Charles Miller (Project Flow)

Slide 1

Slide 1 of 6

I would like to talk about how we got where we are and where we are going.

Slide 2

Slide 2 of 6

CDC is here under the auspices of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in 1990 and renewed in 1995 and 2000. CDC is designated by HHS as the lead agency for these types of investigations.

Slide 3

Slide 3 of 6

Under the MOU, Superfund programs are the basis for many activities, particularly all ATSDR activities. Negotiations to renew the MOU are again under way.

Slide 4

Slide 4 of 6

How did we come out to LANL? We began preliminary investigations at LANL in 1994. We knew less about LANL as compared to the other DOE sites. During our exploratory work, we located records that suggested that off-site releases probably occurred. We found large repositories of records. We didn't know how many there were. We knew most records were classified, but the numbers and types of records were unknown. When the contract for this project was written, we made our best guesses of the time and money that would be needed to complete the project. We greatly under estimated the effort.

Slide 5

Slide 5 of 6

This slide summarizes the goals of the project. Tom mentioned that the draft of the final report would be issued this year. We will use the report to determine if additional work will be funded. We want your comments on the report.

Slide 6

Slide 6 of 6

As Phil mentioned, we will use the report to support a decision on whether to set up a new contract. We will determine if we will continue beyond the current contract. Regarding the first bullet on this slide, all of our activities are a line item from Congress--we can't do anything if we don't have the money we need to do it. To continue work at Los Alamos, four key issues must be resolved:

  • Need-to-Know: Even though we have the security clearances, we must also have a good reason to look at documents. We are continually working at LANL to establish CDC's need-to-know to allow document review to occur.
  • Access Procedures: We need to be able to review all relevant documents.
  • Appeal Process: We need a process that works and is followed, within specified time limits.
  • CDC Review: We need appropriately cleared staff at CDC to be able to review documents that have been withheld from our contractors, to verify that those documents do not contain relevant information. I think we are making progress, but we'll see.

Public Comments / Questions and Answers

Public: What is the extent of your willingness and energy to pursue another contract? Could roadblocks cause by the September 11th events prevent another contract?

Charles Miller: Yes. A lot of issues facing us are really exacerbated by the September 11th aftermath. People are really concerned about what is being released to the public. If we don't make progress to resolve the issues I have listed, yes, we probably won't continue the project.

Public: Where can we put pressure?

Charles Miller: Let LANL and others know of your interest in the project.

Public: Would the congressional delegation be any help?

Charles Miller: I don't know.

Public: From the Bush administration down to senator Dominici, we have to let them know there are a lot of claims for compensation resulting from exposure to radiation. A lot of people need the information from this project to document their claims. We need this documentation. The job is only done half way. It's all political; Sen. Pete Dominici needs to be contacted. We need to have you guys with need-to-know to show what was released that could have affected the residents of northern New Mexico. We don't have a way of obtaining documents otherwise. When it comes to LANL, there is always the secrecy of LANL. I think there is a lot of information that still needs to come out to the public.

Charles Miller: We will do our best.

Public: How does this project compare to Hanford or ORNL?

Charles Miller: They were a quite a bit different.

Public: Why was LANL one of the last sites studied?

Charles Miller: When started, there was a lot of pressure from Hanford, in terms of prioritizing. LANL was not on the top of the list because of the amount of documents and the security issues.

Public: What was the original objective of the contract? A lot of activity related to LANL occurred at other sites. Is this information being included? Personally, I saw more nuclear bombs go off than any other person. I'm a down-winder. Without places like LANL, we might not be here now.

Charles Miller: The purpose of this project is to retrieve and evaluate historical documents. When Hanford documents were released, it was discovered that there had been releases to the environment. As a result, we performed an epidemiological study. Document reviews look for significant evidence in a systematic way. Tom's job is to review, evaluate and release relevant documents. You can use the documents for your own issues.

Public: Why are some of these issues not addressed in the MOU?

Charles Miller: We thought the MOU did address many of these issues satisfactorily. The MOU is very general. It recognized that each site is different. We have had to conduct negotiations at each site. Frankly, I thought the MOU did cover some of these issues.

Public: Will the final report address tissue sample reports?

Charles Miller: Yes.

Public: With regard to the contract, how much was spent on security issues related to Wen Ho Lee and the missing hard drives?

Charles Miller: There were no security issues related to CDC or its contractor. Certainly, we encountered delays. However, during those lockouts, Tom's staff was working on other project work.

Tom Widner: We worked on reports, interviews, or unclassified reviews during the lockouts. The cost was in terms of time delay more than cost.

Public: It is disingenuous to call this a final report. You are not looking at everything as you said you were going to do.

Charles Miller: We have been trying to figure out what to call the report. It is a report that wraps up and summarizes work under the current contract.

Public: In regards to the implicit contract with the people of northern New Mexico, you said you would go through and complete Phase 1 to determine if you were going to go through Phase 2. Do you think the completion of half of Phase 1 will provide enough evidence to go ahead with Phase 2?

Charles Miller: Phase 2 amounts to a source term analysis to determine the magnitude of off-site releases. Tom and his people have developed some preliminary and very rough estimates. We can't say more until we see Tom's report.

Public: What have you determined from autopsy reports?

Tom Widner: Preliminary indications exist that people that lived around LANL do have elevated levels of plutonium compared to people, lets say, around Denver, and that the plutonium exposure most likely occurred in the earlier years of Los Alamos operations. Our analysis is very preliminary, and we cannot draw definite conclusions yet. Indications are is that this deserves a closer look.

Public: Did your folks cover Area G or DP West? For example, I worked as a heavy operator, but I am not up to date with measurements. A lot of these folks can't get medical records to substantiate levels. People are not being compensated because NIOSH could not conduct a dose reconstruction.

Joe Shonka: I would note that our interim report from last spring contains 5-6 pages regarding autopsy reports. You can read about our analysis there. The report is available on our Website. Our project is focused on off-site people. NIOSH is studying workers' health and exposure. We are coordinating our efforts with NIOSH. We have maintained a log that identifies records that seemed relevant to their study. I have sent memos to NIOSH noting relevant documents. Informally we have upgraded some documents for release on NIOSH's request. They made copies of commentary and medical records. We try to help NIOSH, but it is a separate study. We believe that the database will be released to NIOSH before its release to Zimmerman Library.

Charles Miller: If we have data, it will be in our database, which will be given to NIOSH and will be available for you to use.

Public: Are you monitoring missing information? They don't show what I was burying.

Tom Widner: Missed doses are going to be one of the greatest challenges for the NIOSH project.

Public: If there are not records, how are you folks and NIOSH going to determine missing doses?

Joe Shonka: On this project we won't.

Public: How much radiation came out of acid canyon?

Charles Miller: With this project we are releasing documents that have been found. We will turn over the documents to NIOSH. They have people who do dose reconstruction for workers. These are important questions, but we can't give you answers now.

Public: The conversation seems focused on radiation. What about other toxins?

Charles Miller: Work is being done on all type of releases, not just radiological. Historically, people, companies and institutions have been more careful to monitor or look for radioactivity than other chemicals. For example, Savannah River Site (SRS) used boxcar loads of acids and other chemicals but kept very few records. We are trying to compile data on all chemicals.

Tom Widner: Susan Flack is our leader on chemical releases. She is assembling the puzzle.

Public: What is your Website address?

Tom Widner: There you will find a summary of our meetings, copies of slides, draft reports and other good information about the project.

Joe Shonka: The preliminary draft report and data are available on web. It summarized releases as of that time. We are further along now.

Public: Are you examining records from the Technical Areas?

Joe Shonka: We have retrieved data from TA-1 and other TAs. Remedial Investigation Feasibility Study (RIFS) reports and other various reports aren't showing anything for 1940s monitoring at TA-1. We are well aware of its history as a very historic site, and we are collecting all relevant information that we find.

Charles Miller: Please review our reports. If you know of something that is missing, contact Tom so we can get this information.

Public: This affects more than the LANL area. How do I tell you that there are people from Santa Fe to Albuquerque who, like me, knew there was something wrong? People are complaining that the government was saying there was nothing wrong with the site. When they were working on the atomic bomb, I used to haul out of there. In fact, I got contaminated and so did part of my house. They said they would pay for it. They were going to take my house apart. I worked for them for 30 years. After I got sick, I asked for my records and found that that none of that is on record. That's what I would like to have. They say you would help us. We were never notified of what we were doing, and we went through a lot. We dealt with plutonium.

Public: I am an anti-nuclear activist. This man over here said if we didn't use the bomb, we wouldn't be here tonight. Everyone that lives in New Mexico has radiation. LANL is the most contaminated lab. Food, groundwater, soil, are all contaminated. Are we going to see if something is wrong? Our officials, Richardson, senators, congressmen, the President, all took oaths, but they have violated the Constitution. We are in a nuclear holocaust! We have radiated our troops. We need to send all politicians to prison for what they have done to the human race. This is sick! They have made a mess all over the country. Our own government has terrorized us! We are the super power of the world, but we are stupid. WIPP is a failure. Millions of drums are being stored there. They are leaking and going into water; gases go up and down the caves. It is sad that you act like you know nothing. This is sad that you continue to do this to the human race and all the animals. Where is the media? They should be here to inform us how the military industrial complex is poisoning us. Radioactivity is rampant in New Mexico and the oceans. Politicians are prostitutes!

Public: We have come here to voice our opinion regarding the injustices of elite institutions. CDC is in good company hearing excuse after excuse. Attorneys tried to gather information; state regulators tried; employees can't get records. LANL is third from the bottom in the time it takes to respond with records for NIOSH. This is the racket at LANL. I am very interested in the interactions between CDC and LANL. If we could start passing these out, please. They are stamped postcards, filled out and ready to send to the head of NCEH at CDC. We need to support the extension of the MOU and the project.

Public: How much higher are the levels of plutonium?

Charles Miller: We don't have final numbers. The slide shows their estimates.

Public: I am puzzled by the trap CDC got into because they don't have people on the other side to get into areas [LANL personnel for escorting and document prescreening]. Is there funding in the MOU for them?

Charles Miller: That is something that needs to be addressed.

Public: When you talked about a workable appeals process, what is that?

Charles Miller: When LANL denies access to documents, we can appeal to DOE to see if they agree with LANL. If DOE agrees, we need a process where a CDC employee, a federal employee, can review the document.

Public: Have any appeals been successful?

Charles Miller: We have made two different sets of appeals, and we have not received a response from the laboratory on either.

Public: Is there a time limit for appeals?

Charles Miller: We would like to have a reasonable time limit, but that hasn't happened.

Public: Have you noticed any appreciable difference with the new management regime at LANL?

Charles Miller: I have noticed that we are now getting more attention at the right levels, but nothing has happened yet.

Public: I have a recommendation for future meetings: involve personnel that are involved in the project and invite NIOSH to participate.

Charles Miller: Thank you.

Public: Have you conducted tissue studies, or are you just reviewing documents about tissues studies?

Charles Miller: We are using documents about tissue studies done by others.

Public: It is important to consider that Rocky Flats is 13 miles away from homes and LANL is about 1 mile away. I just want to make sure you are taking that into consideration. What is the University of California's (UC) commitment to the project at this time? What do you see as negotiable for this project to continue?

Public, formerly UC Office of the President: I am no longer a representative of UC. The University supports LANL. There is no funding from CDC for LANL employees to support this effort. I have no reason to believe they are not supportive in the completion of this project. They would like to see this project come to closure.

Public: Lets talk about the by University of Colorado and UC contract.

Charles Miller: I am not familiar with that particular contract.

Public: In February, UC signed a contract with University of Colorado for a risk assessment with respect to LANL. One of the things the community is asking is why so much money is being put into a prospective or contemporary risk assessment when the LAHDRA project is not getting the support it needs. The LAHDRA project is getting the historical information that the people need.

Charles Miller: I don't know the source of funding or motivation for that contact.

Public: I will email you their work and their legal requirements. With regard to plutonium soil samples, is that data available now?

Tom Widner: It will be made available in our upcoming report.

Public: If this contract is not extended, this work will not be completed and will be bad for New Mexico and the nation. If you need our help, let the people in this room know that the contract will not be extended so we can rally the troops. You should hire local people. They can help extend your staff.

Charles Miller: We're committed to doing our best. We're not looking for a way out. Issues have arisen. If they can't be resolved, we can't do the project.

Public: Those issues don't seem that big of a deal.

Charles Miller: I agree. They are surmountable.

Public: What money is needed?

Charles Miller: CDC has money to finish what Tom is doing. By law, we can't give him more money to go beyond the ceiling, so we must bring the contract to an orderly close.

Public: Why haven't you been working on this sooner?

Charles Miller: We are using the funding committed to the contract. We have seen it coming, and we were hoping to get an extension. We were told by legal counsel that we can't add significantly more money. We have been working on this for months. We scheduled the meeting when we determined we didn't have a choice. This is the best solution.

Public: I am incredulous that you think LANL would have any incentive to cooperate with the project. They haven't in the past. That is why we are cynical. Considering UC is willing for the project to go forward is incomprehensible.

Charles Miller: I hope this will be the exception.

Public: How much money is needed to finish the whole project?

Charles Miller: I don't know if we have developed those figures. Even if we have, we wouldn't be allowed to discuss what we think it would cost; we can't give that information to potential bidders. Money is not the issue. We get money every year from Congress. I don't think money would be the issue in the future. If we can get the other issues resolved, I believe the money will be there.

Public: When will money be available?

Charles Miller: I think we would have money next year.

Public: What is the most important thing, in terms of keeping the project going?

Charles Miller: To get together with LANL and DOE to resolve issues. It is your right to do all you can to influence decision makers.

Public: I hope this is not a cover up so people around the country won't know what LANL has been doing. I don't trust it. You need to go forward and complete this project. You need to let the people know what has gone on up there.

Charles Miller: We will do our best.

Public: How do you intend to notify the people what is happening?

Charles Miller: Another meeting will be held this year. You may also drop me a line via e-mail. We'll be around. Be sure to check out the project's Website.