Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Monday, October 26, 1998
Mining at WIPP site upsets N.M. officials
CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) -- State environment regulators weren't
notified that the U.S. Department of Energy was going to
begin an underground mining operation earlier this month at
the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.
When the state inquired last week about the activity -- the
first underground mining at WIPP in 10 years -- the DOE
stopped the work and as of Friday had not responded to the
state's request for information on the project.
``We don't know what they're doing yet,'' said state
Environment Department spokesman Nathan Wade, adding, ``In
general, we're curious about what's going on in the salt
WIPP is a DOE project designed to bury
plutonium-contaminated waste from the nation's defense
industry 2,150 feet underground in ancient salt beds 26
miles southeast of Carlsbad. Plans now call for the
repository to open sometime next year.
The DOE on Oct. 1 began extending one of the WIPP's drifts,
or tunnels, in preparation for digging out its second
complex of underground waste disposal rooms.
During two weeks of mining, WIPP workers excavated about 818
tons of rock and salt and extended by about 74 feet one of
the four tunnels that will create access to the eight
planned seven-room panels.
The mining in the salt beds raises anew questions about the
state's authority over the federal nuclear waste site, which
is designed to dispose of the radioactive byproducts of the
nation's nuclear weapons production.
The federal government contends that the state has far less
authority over its work at WIPP. And the government has said
it could dispose of some radioactive waste before a state
permit is issued.
Critics of WIPP such as Don Hancock, with the Southwest
Research and Information Center in Albuquerque, don't agree.
``We felt this was a violation of the law,'' Hancock said of
the mining work. ``Clearly, this was part of the Panel 2
mining operation. We don't think they can do that.''
The Energy Department contends the state has no authority
over the mining work, but a spokesman said the department
wanted to cooperate with the state and avoid confrontation.
Anti-nuclear activists such as Hancock, along with New
Mexico Attorney General Tom Udall, have maintained that all
operations at WIPP are regulated by the state under the
permit that has not yet been issued. Without the permit,
their argument goes, the U.S. Energy Department can neither
dispose of waste nor engage in any construction or new
State regulators have been waffling on the extent of their
authority over WIPP. Until recently, the state Environment
Department was saying it would be OK for the federal
government to dispose of radioactive waste at WIPP as long
as that waste did not contain materials that are
specifically regulated by the state, including lead and
However, the department began reconsidering its position
after learning recently that the Energy Department was
planning a far more aggressive disposal schedule than it was
Energy Department spokesman Dennis Hurtt described the
mining work as ``no big deal.''
``It wasn't a big deal at all until the state got
involved,'' he said. ``It's just an extension of a drift.''
The Energy Department did not inform state regulators, the
Energy Department's Washington office or issue a news
release about it's activity.
``If we thought it was newsworthy, we would have told you,''
Alpine Lodge A-C studied in Sunday fire
Pecos volunteer firemen were called out Sunday night and
again this morning to deal with a smoldering fire in the
Alpine Lodge Restaurant at the Swiss Clock Inn on the south
side of town, the third time in the past six years the motel
has been hit by a fire.
Sunday's fire that damaged the Alpine Lodge Restaurant
Sunday night may have started in a heating unit. Fire
Marshal Jack Brookshire was at the scene on the North
Service Road of I-20 at Country Club Drive this morning
attempting to determine the cause.
Carl Tautenhahn of Kerrville, an official with Swiss Clock
Inns, said the restaurant re-opening for Tuesday is looking
He said they may open Wednesday, using the banquet room
instead of the regular restaurant.
Smoke and water damage will force installation of new carpet
in the restaurant proper, which Tautenhahn said may take a
week or two.
He added that Brookshire told him the source of the fire may
have been an air conditioning unit inside the restaurant,
which is in a separate building from the rest of the motel.
The restaurant was forced to close for repairs after a fire
in December of 1992, and the motel had to close for major
renovations when fire gutted a laundry room area just behind
the main lobby in January of 1995. While smoke was visible
coming from the building on Sunday, no fire actually emerged
from the structure.
Firemen took just over an hour to put out the fire, but were
called back shortly before 6 a.m. today to water down a `hot
spot' in the building.
Four arrested after Friday drug raid
By ROSIE FLORES
While the new Permian Basin Drug Task Force remains in it's
formative stages, officers from the Pecos Police Department
and the Reeves County Sheriff's Department are being kept
busy trying to get drugs off the streets through their own
local task force.
Local law enforcement officials have staged a series of
warrant searches leading to arrests on drug-related charges
since early September, with the latest taking place on
Friday at about 2:44 p.m.
According to Pecos police, officers from the police
department and the Reeves County Sheriff's Department
executed a narcotics search warrant at, the home of Jesus
Gochicoa at Fifth and Mulberry Streets. Investigators Ernest
Lazcano and Paul Deishler said complaints had been received
that subjects were selling heroin and injecting heroin at
Deishler said upon executing the warrant, officers found a
syringe with a liquid substance inside believed to be heroin
inside the residence. Also found were other drug
paraphernalia commonly used in the injecting and selling of
Deishler said that after completing the search of the
residence four people were placed under arrest for the
offense of possession of a controlled substance within a
1,000 feet of a school, a felon of the third degree.
Arrested and taken into custody were Ana Barreno, 37; Frank
Rico, Jr., 36; Arturo Gallegos, 26 and Jesus Gochicoa, 51.
All four subjects were transported to the Reeves County Jail
and released to the jail. All were charged with possession
of a controlled substance, heroin and all have posted a bond
Police and sheriff's deputies have been staging the drug
raids while awaiting final approval of a new Pecos-based
Permian Basin Drug Task Force. It would replace the former
PBDTF that was headquartered in Odessa, but which was not
funded by the state for the current fiscal year. Several
other area counties have gone with a task force organized by
the Department of Public Safety, although the two task
forces will cooperate.
The task force would cover nine-counties in the Permian
Basin-Trans Pecos region and would be headquarters in Pecos,
with sheriff Andy Gomez named as the project director.
Baptists flock to dedication of new church
By PEGGY McCRACKEN
Pastors and fellow Baptists from across West Texas gathered
Saturday to dedicate the building now occupied by Iglesia
Bautista Nueva Vida (New Life Baptist Church), located at
301 W. Third St.
The Rev. Basilio Montez, pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista
in McCamey, preached the dedication message, and Rev. James
Sain, West Park Baptist pastor, voiced the prayer of
Rev. Pablo Garcia, called by the church as pastor on Sept.
27, welcomed guests and introduced program leaders. James
Herrera led congregational hymns, and Alvino Arenivas read
Presenting special music were Cindy Jones of West Park,
Adolfo and Alma Chavez of Midland, James Herrera, Javier
Herrera and Susie Sandoval, and the New Life choir, directed
by Nova Herrera.
Rev. Mac McCormick, North Temple Baptist pastor, led in
Rev. Garcia introduced Steve Becker, a Midland pastor who
delivered a donated bus to the new congregation.
Worship services in the multi-purpose building, the former
Greyhound Bus Station which was renovated by the Pecos
Valley Church of Christ, are at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. each
Sunday, with Sunday school at 9:30 a.m.
Wednesday Bible study and prayer is at 7 p.m., and the Girls
in Action meet at 5 p.m. Tuesdays.
Eunice hearing set on Andrews waste site plan
From Staff and Wire Reports
A public meeting Thursday night in Eunice, N.M. on a
proposed hazardous waste dump just across the Texas border
in Andrews county will have a new topic to discuss --
That's because officials in Andrews County and the owners of
two sites six miles east of Eunice have offered those
locations for storage of low-level radioactive waste from
Texas and two other states.
The offer came after the Texas Natural Resource Conservation
Commission denied a license last week for a proposed dump
near Sierra Blanca that would have housed low-level
radioactive waste from Texas, Maine and Vermont.
``The welcome mat is out,'' Andrews Industrial Foundation
spokesman Bill Miller said. ``We will be educating
legislators about the facility, letting them know we can
take care of their needs top to bottom.''
Two companies are interested in an Andrews County site for
the lucrative waste-disposal facility: Envirocare, a
Utah-based disposal group that handles more than 90 percent
of national low-level waste disposal and already has a
facility in Andrews County, and Pasadena-based Waste Control
Specialists, Inc. Andrews County is 180 miles northeast of
Sierra Blanca, near the southeast corner of New Mexico.
Both companies sites sit right on the state line, 30 miles
west of Andrews but only six miles outside Eunice. WCS had
already planned to store non-radioactive hazardous waste at
the site, and has filed environmental impact papers with the
state of New Mexico, according to Eunice city clerk Harriet
"There is going to be a public hearing Thursday night at 6
p.m. (MST) in Eunice at the Community Center," on the WCS
proposal, Reed said. "Since the landfill is close to the
city they had all applications sent to Santa Fe. Anyone can
come here (to Eunice City Hall) to look at it."
The community center is located at 1100 Ave. I in Eunice.
The proposed hazardous waste site has received backing from
both residents in Andrews County and from those in Eunice,
though there has been no discussion about the new plans as
"Eunice has been real co-operative," Reed said. "They've
been talking about it for three or four years, and some
places may not like this kind of thing, but this is going to
create jobs for people."
The Sierra Blanca site, in southeastern Hudspeth County and
20 miles from the Rio Grande, drew strong opposition from
local activists, along with officials in surrounding
counties and in Mexico. And at least one group that helped
derail plans for the Sierra Blanca low-level radioactive
waste dump plans to get involved again if momentum builds to
locate the facility in Andrews County.
``It would be hypocritical and bordering on immoral for us
to fight against this dump in Sierra Blanca and then turn
around and ignore Andrews,'' Bill Addington of the Sierra
Blanca Legal Defense Fund told the Odessa American. ``There
are 16,000 to 17,000 people there. And a lot of people that
I don't think know what's going on there.''
The Andrews County site would be just 50 miles from the
federal government's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, where
radioactive waste would be stored southeast of Carlsbad,
N.M. But while that soon-to-open site is locate 2,150 feet
down in a 4,000 foot deep salt deposit, the underground area
on the Texas-New Mexico state line is not considered as
favorable for storing radioactive waste.
According to a 1987 disposal authority report, one site
studied in western Andrews County was considered
``marginal'' for radioactive waste disposal.
Key criteria for a low-level radioactive waste site, the
report states, include low annual rainfall, a thick section
of impermeable rock and no potable ground water. Andrews
County lies on the southern edge of the Ogallala Aquifer,
which stretches north through the Texas Panhandle and into
Oklahoma and Kansas.
The study of the Andrews County site found higher rainfall
levels than in western portions of the state. It also
indicated that the sandy nature of the soil encouraged
recharge of the water table from rainfall and that windmills
near the site suggested a shallow source of ground water.
``We did drill a hole or two and looked at some maps, said
Lee Mathews, general counsel for the authority. ``We saw
that there were issues that might require more time or money
But authority general manager Lawrence Jacobi warned in 1987
that unless it could be proved that the Ogallala aquifer is
not recharged through or from the site area, state law
precluded the site from being considered.
Norm Sunderland, director of permitting at Envirocare's
888-acre Andrews County facility, said his company was
``very interested'' in contracting with the state. ``The
Andrews County siting is the obvious choice for Texas,'' he
Deep clay deposits and little rainfall, Sunderland said,
make the Andrews site the preferred location.
High Friday 71, low 50. Saturday high 74, low 51. Sunday
high 83, low 62. Tonight, cloudy with a 20 percent chance
of showers or thunderstorms. Low around 60. Southeast wind
10-20 mph and gusty. Tuesday, cloudy with a 40 percent
chance of showers or thunderstorms. High 65 70. Southeast to
south wind 10-20 mph and gusty.
Mac McKinnon, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321
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Copyright 1998 by Pecos Enterprise