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For Immediate Release: Jun 05, 2000
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

NUCLEAR DISASTER UNFOLDING IN TEXAS PANHANDLE

Cancer and Contamination at Pantex Plant Compounded by Bureaucratic Errors


Austin - Spreading toxic contamination in the huge aquifer underneath the Pantex Nuclear Weapons Plant may imperil the drinking water of the City of Amarillo, according to documents released today by Texas Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Texas PEER). New discoveries are confirming serious and long-term health consequences of waste disposal practices at the nuclear weapon dismantling facility.

A series of errors by state and federal regulators -- some dating back decades, others committed during the past few months -- have endangered local residents who relied on government assurances that their water is safe to drink. Nearly one in five residents of the town of Panhandle is afflicted with some form of cancer, a fact community members attribute to the discovery of solvents, heavy metals and other contaminants found in local wells.

The Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC), the state's environmental agency, is supposed to oversee the Pantex site. Yet, despite the long history of environmental problems at the site, TNRCC has:

*failed to properly check monitoring wells that track groundwater contamination;

*sat on test results for more than nine months (TNRCC blamed the U.S. Department of Energy for the delay in informing citizens); and

*issued no fines or penalties.

"In the Panhandle, clean water is far more precious than oil and the underground aquifers are the only sources of clean water," commented Texas PEER Coordinator Erin Rogers. "From a bottom line environmental perspective, the government's performance at Pantex has been an unmitigated disaster."