May 8, 1998
WIPP readies for waste shipments
By GREG HARMAN
CARLSBAD, May 8, 1998 - As a final resting place for decades
worth of cold war nuclear by-product, officials at the
Department of Energy's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, better
known as WIPP, say you can not do any better than a 250
million year old, roughly 70 mile block of solid salt deep
in the earth of southern New Mexico.
Members of the press were invited down yesterday, 2,150 feet
down, into WIPP's salt-entombed chambers, to review the
project's potential storage operations for which employees
have been training for six months.
WIPP and DOE officials expect final approval for the site to
come next week from the Environmental Protection Agency,
resulting in pre-approved transuranic, defense-generated
waste arriving at the site, located 26 miles southeast of
Carlsbad, N.M. and 75 miles north of Pecos, from temporary
above-ground storage sites at Los Alamos, N.M., Idaho
National Engineering Lab in southeast Idaho, and Rocky
Flats, Colo., as soon as one month from the date of the
EPA's go ahead. That is, if there are no more law suits
seeking to side-track the $1.8 billion program.
George Dials, manager of DOE's WIPP site, said that
potential plutonium hazards have been overstated by
opposition groups, who are concerned about the potential
danger posed by oil and gas exploration, and the subsequent
brine injection, close to the site.
Dials said that fluid and air injection in southern New
Mexico petroleum operations was not a credible scenario. "We
have a one mile buffer zone and are working with the Bureau
of Land Management to ensure that no unknown drilling
occurs," said Dials.
"I am confident that in the long run we will prevail over
any litigation or possible restraining order."
Two prior lawsuits that accused the DOE of operating behind
closed doors, and involved New Mexico's Attorney General and
Southwest Research, were "thrown out on a technical issue,"
said Westinghouse spokesperson Donavon Mager.
Dials said further that he expected out-going Energy
Secretary Federico Pena to do the "right and honorable
thing" by approving the WIPP site for operations.
Dials also announced his resignation as manager of WIPP,
effective the first of June, explaining that this also was
"an indication of my supreme confidence that it will open."
The EPA granted preliminary certification to the site, in
October 1996, as meeting all federal disposal regulations.
Workers enter the seven mile labyrinth by a 45-ton capacity
deck elevator equipped with emergency breathing apparatus,
hard hats and miners' lamps, and operate in industrial-sized
hallways that are hewn -floor, walls and ceiling -from solid
rock salt faintly tinged by iron and clay.
WIPP engineers see the lead-lined barrels, which may soon be
filling these crystalline chambers, as only very temporary
shells for the waste. The final shell will be the
underground salt formation itself.
The Permian-age salt which is continually encroaching on the
hollowed-out chambers at a rate of three inches per year,
would eventually seal up the waste in a solid block of salt.
John Ingram, assistant engineer for WIPP, illustrated this
hope, while chipping away at a one shimmering wall with a
He displayed chunks of salt that had overtaken and absorbed
small bubbles of water. It is the hope of WIPP engineers
like Ingram that the salt formation will encase and hold the
transuranic waste for the duration of its 10,000 year
half-life, as simply as it has these tiny water beads.
Expounding on the movement of the salt itself, Ingram
compared the salt's growth to that of the human body's
"What it's trying to do is heal itself," he said of the salt
formation. "Just like a human being when it is cut."
Ingram estimated it would take 100-200 years for the salt to
completely encase the waste inside each individual chamber.
To combat this incessantly-creeping formation, 8-15 foot
"rock bolts" are installed in the ceiling to slow the
growth and walls are "scaled" back with large industrial
However, at the heart of most concerns regarding the complex
is the waste itself and the transport of it on major
Transuranic waste literally means waste that is heavier than
uranium. These elements include plutonium, neptunium,
americium, curium and californium. Dangerous, WIPP officials
stress, only if consumed or inhaled.
Transuranic waste, according to the WIPP Land Withdrawal
Act, contains more than 100 nanocuries of alpha-emitting
transuranic isotopes per gram of waste, with half-lives of
greater than 20 years.
Transuranic waste from several temporary storage sites has
already been approved for transport and disposal. Mixed
waste, which would make-up a lesser portion of housed waste
at WIPP, may contain both radioactive and hazardous waste.
Mixed waste, upon approval, would be transported from
several national sites
The initial transportation of nuclear waste will not affect
Pecos, but as other waste facilities are approved this waste
will begin to be trucked through the middle of town on U.S.
285 to Carlsbad. Waste from Argone National Lab-East, Ill.,
Mound Laboratory, Ohio, Oak Ridge, Tenn. and Savannah River
Site, S.C. will all be transported on this route.
Once docked at the WIPP site the barrels are unloaded, a
stringent process that may take up to two hours, the barrels
themselves are taken down to the mine. There they packed
with canvas sacks of magnesium oxide. The purpose of this is
two-fold. Magnesium oxide serves as an anti-corrosive,
absorbing any liquids that may enter the chamber or leak
from the barrels. The compound also would absorb, according
to WIPP engineers, any migrating radionuclides that escape
Wade Weyerman, a waste handler who has been working at the
WIPP site for 11 years and was ready to start doing what he
has trained for so long to do, said he has virtually no
concern over working with transuranic waste.
"Basically, you could have this stuff in your living room
for the rest of your life and it wouldn't hurt you."
Weyerman said that the transuranic waste emits about 200
millirem per year. A "rem" (roentgen equivalent man) is a
measure of the actual biological effect of radiation
absorbed by human tissue.
When it comes to employees and radioactive exposure, WIPP
operates by ALARA, or, As Low As Reasonably Achievable. The
acceptable exposure level since 1958 until now is five rem
The acceptable level has been down-graded as knowledge of
the hazards of radioactive particles became more well known.
In 1910, the minimum exposure level was 100 rem per year,
that was lowered to 30 rem per year in 1934, to 15 rem per
year in 1948 and then to its present five rem per year
level, in 1958.
The DOE, however, operates on a two rem per year acceptable
exposure level, and WIPP reduced this level further to one
rem per year. This, officials explain, may be achieved by
stringent safety measures and limiting the time employees
spend handling the waste barrels.
As officials and employees all anxiously await final
approval for the site from the EPA, opposition groups have
promised to continue their opposition.
"Basically," Dials said, "they (Southwest Research) have
said they are going to sue no matter what the EPA decides."
Police, DA given $15,000 from sale of house
By PEGGY McCRACKEN
PECOS, May 8, 1998 - District Judge Bob Parks on Thursday
awarded $15,000 in proceeds from the sale of the William and
Alta Bechtel home to the Pecos Police Department and 143rd
William Bechtel, his wife, Alta Ruth Bechtel, and their son,
Skyler Bechtel, pleaded guilty last month to possession of
marijuana. Officers found marijuana in the home during a
drug raid last December.
Judge Parks ruled that their home was contraband and ordered
it sold, with 2/3 of the first $15,000 going to the PPD and
1/3 to the district attorney. The family may retain the
remainder after costs are paid.
In other action Thursday, Judge Parks accepted a plea of
guilty to heroin possession by Santigao "Jimmy" Natividad
Fuentez on Jan. 5. DA Randy Reynolds dismissed two similar
indictments against Fuentez in a plea bargain agreement.
Fuentez was sentenced to four years in prison and a $1,500
fine, plus $164.50 court costs.
Trying to sell marijuana gets many indicted
By PEGGY McCRACKEN
PECOS, May 8, 1998 - Pecos and Barstow residents charged
with possessing marijuana for distribution were among 34
persons indicted by the federal grand jury Thursday.
Two indictments were sealed.
Gilberto Gonzales Juarez, 29, of Barstow, and Alma Rosa
Perez, 32, of 707 S. Palm Street, were arrested May 4 with
509.80 pounds of marijuana in their vehicle, court records
Others charged with possession of marijuana with intent to
* Ricardo Muniz-Salgado, 47, of Gainesville, 24.56 pounds on
* Aracely Galindo-Pando, 27, of Austin, 192 pounds on May 5;
* Samuel Mancinas-Porras, 19, of Odessa, 34.45 pounds on
* Mary Duran Chavez, 39, of Artesia, N.M., 72.52 pounds on
* Arturo Becerra-Gutierrez, 35, of Odessa, 148.06 pounds on
Sept. 29, 1997;
* Raul Luna Gardea, 26, of Odessa, 431 pounds on April 17;
* Josie Ann Gardea, 26, of Odessa, unstated amount, May 19,
* Marcos Dionisio Rivera, 18, of Odessa, 356.05 pounds on
* Jose Luis Herrera-Hernandez, 36, of Ojinaga, Mex., 40.2
pounds on April 16; and
* Manuel Terrazas-Lujan, 38, Armando Venegas-Mendoza, 31,
Nicandro Perez-Contreras, 22, Antonio Mata-Moreno, 37,
Miguel Angel Esparza-Ramos, 33, and Jose Luis
Carbajal-Garcia, 26, all of Ojinaga, Mex., 164.10 pounds on
Charged with importing and possessing marijuana with intent
to distribute are:
* Letty Jo Esparza, 32, and Rutilio Valdespino, 28, both of
Odessa, 106 pounds on April 23;
* Carlos Solis-Calmenero, 83, and Lucila Dominguez, 61, both
of Cuauhtemoc, Chi., Mex., 148 pounds on April 10;
* Teofilo Meraz Carrasco, 70, of Kermit, 27 pounds on April
* Severiano Lujan-Gamboa, 28, of Chihuahua, Mex., 59.8
pounds on April 30;
Illegal entry after deportation is the charge against:
* Adrian Gallegos-Garcia, 23, of Juarez, Mex., April 20;
* Juan Reza-Pedroza, 34, of Mexico City, April 27;
* Isidoro Ramirez-Velasquez, 26, of Saltillo, Mex., April 20;
* Emilio Nicolas Romero, 35, of Oxaca, Mex., April 7; and
* Juan Manuel Garcia-Vera, 24, of Guadalajara, Mex., Apirl
Charged with illegal entry after deportation, subsequent to
aggravated felony are:
* Francisco Rodriguez-Ramirez, 30, of Ojinaga, Mex., April
* Jesus Jose Briones, 37, of Ojinaga, Mex., April 28.
Carlos Guzman Moreno, 50, and Mario Moreno, 42, both of El
Paso, are charged with three counts each of transporting
Pecos resident's death under investigation
PECOS, May 8, 1998 - The body of Pecos resident Booker T.
Fobbs, 105 S. Plum St., was discovered late last night at
Fifth and Mulberry streets, after a phone call from Jesus
Gochicoa was received at 12:33 and an ambulance dispatched
for a possible drug overdose.
Gochicoa said that Fobbs was dumped in front of his house by
three black males driving a white pickup that had lettering
on the doors. Fobbs was still alive at that time he was
abandoned, said Gochicoa.
Fobbs died soon after his body was dumped by the three men
and the ambulance was recalled.
Fobbs' death is currently under investigation by the Pecos
Police Department. An autopsy to help determine the cause of
death has been ordered by Justice of the Peace Amonario
AREA NEWS ROUNDUP
The Big Bend Sentinel
Alpine, May 7, 1998 - If Big Bend Regional Hospital District
Directors are considering an alternate site for the new
hospital, they're holding their cards too close to their
vests. Reports spread through Alpine last week that land
closer to town had been offered to the hospital district.
Last year, 15 acres were donated for the hospital site by
Tom and Val Beard; he's a rancher and she's an attorney and
the Brewster County judge. That site is north of the Alpine
airport and east of the Fort Davis highway. The site subject
to speculation is south of the South Orient Railroad tracks
and east of the highway, which is closer to Alpine's
northern city limit, but is not under consideration,
according to board president Ralph Meriweather.
Presidio, Tx. May 7, 1998 -A $63,000 budget shortfall has
forced City of Presidio administrators to seriously consider
rate hikes for basic city services, and prompted "crisis
management measures," including a special public budget
workshop on May 14, by the city council. City Administrator
Michael Kovacs said Tuesday that the city's budget has been
"burned to the ground" and that there will "be no spending
that is not an emergency until the new fiscal year begins in
The McCamey News
McCamey, May 7, 1998 - On Tuesday, April 28, the entire
student body of McCamey ISD gathered in the high school
auditorium to celebrate their success in the Reading
Renaissance Program. A number of special guests brought
congratulations and further honors to the students. The
principals recounted the achievements of their campuses and
bestowed special honors upon their outstanding readers.
Iraan, May 7, 1998 - The United States Achievement Academy
announced recently that Brian Parmer, from Iraan, has been
named a United States National Award Winner in Band. This
award is a prestigious honor very few students can ever hope
to attain. The academy recognizes fewer than 10 percent of
all American high school students.
The Monahans News
Monahans, May 7, 1998 -Ward Memorial Hospital Board Managers
chose Lubbock Methodist Hospital System to take over
operations of the financially troubled hospital during a
meeting of the board last Friday. The board had put off the
decision of whether Lubbock Methodist or Community Health
Corp. would assume management responsibilities for Ward
Memorial until new board members Loredia Potts and Alan
Stockton officially joined the board.
Brawley Beauchamp, Jr.
Brawley (Bob) Beauchamp, Jr. died today at his residence in
A grave side service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at Mt
Evergreen Cemetery. Rev. Ron Garcia will officiate. Rev.
Garcia is associated with Hospice.
Beauchamp was born April 16, 1938, in Pecos and was a
Survivors include: his parents Brawley and Deenie Beauchamp
Arrangements are being handled by Pecos Funeral Home.
PECOS, May 8, 1998 - High Thursday, 93, low this morning,
53. There is a chance of showers and thunderstorms in West
Texas in the central South Plains, Panhandle, low rolling
plains and the Concho Valley through tonight. The National
Weather Service warns that some of the thunderstorms could
become severe. The chance of stormy activity will continue
in the Panhandle on Saturday and the rest of West Texas will
have partly cloudy skies. Lows tonight will be in the 40s
and 50s in West Texas, highs Saturday will be in the 60s in
the Panhandle and in the 70s, 80s and 90s elsewhere in West
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