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Community Pushing to Halt Further Hazardous Explosive Testing Near Tracy

TRACY -- Sixteen-hundred people have signed a petition in hopes of stopping plans by the Lawrence Livermore Lab to increase hazardous explosive testing just outside of Tracy.

It's all just 7,000 feet from a planned housing development.

A full environmental review of such proposals are required under state law if there's significant public concern. But with preliminary approval already granted, some say local regulators apparently don't think those signatures amount to significant concern. They pressed for a public hearing at City Hall Thursday.

Site 300 is behind big stone markers and fencing, sectioned off from the surrounding community since 1955. People who live in Tracy say that without a doubt the explosive testing that the Lawrence Livermore Lab does there touches their daily lives right now.

"It's for our health and for the babies," said Gail Reiger.

Reiger is one of about 80 upset people who went to the public hearing Thursday to make sure the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District knew they're worried about what may be blowing in the wind if Site 300 gets a permit to increase the material it explodes by 10 fold.

"They're going to increase the amount from 100 pounds to 1,000 pounds a day and 1,000 pounds is the yearly amount right now," Reiger said.

"Guys who worked in 'Nam with Agent Orange that was not supposed to hurt them," one woman said from the podium.

Site 300 provides testing that supports the nation's Nuclear Security Administration through the U.S. Department of Energy. It fabricates explosives instrumental to a lab stewardship program, which is designed to ensure the safety and reliability of the country's nuclear weapons stockpile.

As the nation fine-tunes its nuclear posture, the government says it needs outdoor blasting of more hydrogen cyanide and 120 other hazardous contaminants near Tracy to develop countermeasures to IEDs and study how such materials react to shock waves.

Just four years ago, on the proposed site for expanded blasting, Marylia Kelley, executive director of Tri-Valley CAREs, says "Lawrence Livermore Lab found 80 pounds of uranium 283."

"I spoke to the lab about this and they confirmed that some such fragments were found and speculate they are blast fragments from research activities a long time ago," said Nick Peirce, permit services manager for the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.

Site 300 is already a Superfund site, declared one of the most contaminated in America back in 1990. If the current pace of clean up continues estimates are it won't be remediated until 2080.

"The health risks from this particular proposed project... health risks were found to be far below significant levels," said Brian Clements, technical services manager with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.

That's why the Air Pollution District says a full project review under the Calfornia Environmental Quality Act isn't necessary.

The district's governing board didn't come up with the preliminary permit approval for the expansion efforts at Site 300, staff did.

People who gathered at City Hall Thursday tried to make it very clear to the district that there hasn't been enough research into factors that should be considered. Representatives admitted they didn't even know the City of Tracy wrote to the Department of Energy last December opposing this project.

As for the noise from the blasts, which is set to exceed regulatory limits of 126 decibels, that was another issue of which district representatives seemed unaware.

"The physical study's already been done and I'm not surprised Lawrence Livermore Lab didn't provide you with it because it refutes everything they're telling you. But I'm gonna provide it to you and if you want more copies I got them," offered Tracy business man Bob Sarvey, to a round of applause from the crowd.

The preliminary permit approval is just that, preliminary.

Air district leaders running Thursday's meeting acknowledge they have a lot of new concerns to research and process.

The public comment period for this proposal ends Aug. 7. Those commenting are encouraged by the district to do so in writing.