Low Level Radioactive Waste Debate Continues in Andrews

By: Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

ANDREWS - The debate on whether or not to dump low level radioactive waste in Andrews County brought out about 100 people for a public hearing on Tuesday night. The Texas Compact Commission will take their concerns into consideration as they make the final decision on whether Waste Control Specialists can store it away.

After signing in, and filling up the Andrews High School theater, neighbors from across West Texas and Southeastern New Mexico had the chance to speak their minds about the proposal to store low level radioactive waste in Andrews County.

"We're talking about nuclear facilities this is opening us to," Peggy Pryor, No Bonds for Billionaires, said during the public hearing.

"We'll add another 60-75 jobs on top of the 150 we have now," Tom Jones, with Waste Control Specialists, said.

WCS says they're planning to store several types of products including contaminated medical supplies at their Andrews County site, but that doesn't sit well with some of their neighbors.

"You hear it both ways," Eunice Resident, Rose Gardner, said. "You hear people so happy that there are jobs here. But at the same time, you've got the concern about the environment. We are worried about our air and our water."

Environmental groups say the Texas Compact Commission is taking on waste from across the nation and world - something that they say will not only affect health, but the drinking water.

"The waste we're talking about, even though it's called "low level," some of it can give a lethal dose in 20 minutes unshielded," Diane D'Arrigo with the Lonestar Chapter of the Sierra Club, said. "It's called low level, but it's intensely radioactive and it lasts a long time."

WCS defended their safety procedures.

"We have an enormous amount of paperwork that details how we will test material, how we will sample it," Jones said. "We have an enormous amount of paperwork before we even allow shipments to the site."

"The State of Texas will be liable for everything they bring in here," Pryor said. "Andrews will be paying for it for the rest of their lives and so will their children, and the pregnant women and young men who are planning on having families in the future. They are the ones who will suffer."

But those for WCS say part of the benefit from the proposal will benefit the taxpayers.

"The state and county get 5% of our gross revenue," Jones said. "We look at it like we're a solution to a national problem. The way this is put together is a win-win situation for everybody."

Members from the TCEQ and Compact Commission weren't willing to comment on camera, but they did want to make it clear: This discussion isn't over yet. They'll continue to take public comment in writing until Tuesday, April 13.