CCNS Letter To City Manager

August 16, 2000


Frank Di Luzio
City of Santa Fe Manager

     Re: Interstate Nuclear Services v. City of Santa Fe

Dear Mr. Di Luzio:

As you know, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS) has been monitoring the litigation between the City of Santa Fe and Interstate Nuclear Services. We have noticed that the City Council has gone into executive session several times to discuss the litigation, and we understand that settlement discussions have been ongoing for some time.

We would like to take this opportunity to advise you of our position that any action of the City Council which would in any manner nullify, void or rescind the wastewater discharge ordinance, or allow it to be nullified, voided, or rescinded, or which would affect the City's powers with respect to the operation of the POTW, or which would alter or amend either those powers or the ordinance, must be taken in an open meeting. [NMSA l978 Section l0-5-3.]

Please review example 77 of the Attorney General's Handbook on the Open Meeting Act (p. 29) which is enclosed, indicating that a vote in executive session which rescinded a rule involved in litigation was void, despite the fact that it was an attorney-client discussion and despite the fact that litigation was pending. This is obviously so, because otherwise a City could undertake much of its public business in executive session since so often rules, ordinances and public policy are the subject of litigation. Nonetheless, they also fall within the domain of the City's public policy, and business concerning them, according to the law, should be transacted in public at an open meeting.

Would you be kind enough to let us know your position on this matter at your earliest convenience?


Suzanne Westerly
Acting Executive Director

cc: Peter Dwyer, City Attorney
Santa Fe City Councilors

Attorney General's Handbook on the Open Meeting Act

IV. Section 10-15-3: Invalid Actions; Standing
Example 77:

A state board with rulemaking authority meets in closed session with its attorney to discuss the legality of its Rule X in light of an action brought against the board by several licensees. The attorney advises that Rule X is probably illegal and the lawsuit could be avoided if Rule X were rescinded. The board votes in closed session to rescind the rule. The action of the board is of no effect because it was not taken in open session. In order for the rescission to be valid and enforceable, it must be accomplished at a properly noticed open meeting.

Nuclear Laundry Sues City of Santa Fe for Second Time
December 2, l998

Interstate Nuclear Services (INS), the "Nuclear Laundry", filed suit against the City of Santa Fe on October 6th, 1998, seeking to overturn the City's new wastewater discharge ordinance which regulates the discharge of radionuclides to the City sewer and wastewater treatment plant. Treated effluent waters from the City's wastewater treatment plant are ultimately discharged to the Santa Fe River, but the treatment does not remove the nuclear contamination.

The City's newly adopted Treated Effluent Management Plan calls for the City to make extensive use of the treated effluent in an effort to save over $27 million dollars in water rights purchases over the next twenty years. "The Treated Effluent Management Plan, which was adopted by the City earlier this year, includes the option to discharge the treated effluent into the Rio Grande in exchange for the right to draw San Juan-Chama drinking water," stated Patricio Guerrerortiz, Public Utilities Director for the City of Santa Fe. "I believe that public perception of radioactive contamination of this effluent may affect our ability to make our reuse plans work. That's one major reason why we have the limitations set forth in the wastewater discharge ordinance. This treated effluent use plan is essential to the City's ability to meet the water supply needs of our citizens in the future."

The plan also calls for the City to negotiate with major water users who use drinking water for irrigation to instead use treated effluent for irrigation, thus saving major amounts of drinking water, and to recharge the treated effluent to the Santa Fe River.

The Nuclear Laundry, which for thirty years has washed nuclear contaminated uniforms from Los Alamos National Laboratories and Rocky Flats at its plant on Siler Road in the heart of Santa Fe, claims the ordinance puts it out of business because the requirements are too difficult to meet. INS uses 'dilution is the solution to pollution' as its method of treating radioactive discharges, simply increasing the amount of water it uses and discharges so the concentrations of radionuclides would meet State standards. The City ordinance is more rigorous. "The State standards are already too easy to meet, and using up precious water to get there is incredibly wasteful", says Leroy Romero, former INS manager and now a board member of CCNS.

INS has not operated in Santa Fe since May, 1996, when the City of Santa Fe closed it down amid allegations of illegal sludge releases containing radioactive contamination and failure to disclose tests revealing violations of City discharge requirements. Former Nuclear Laundry employees, including Romero, testified at a public hearing about INS orders to violate the laws regulating radioactive discharges, including illegal dumping of sludge into the sewer. The State nonetheless renewed the INS license but unless INS can comply with the City ordinance, it cannot discharge to the City sewer.

"INS could recycle its water as is done elsewhere and wouldn't have to discharge anything. But they insist on using up our limited water to dilute their pollution, and then dumping it into the sewer, then to the river, then to Cochiti Lake," states Romero. The Nuclear Laundry could also go back to Los Alamos National Laboratory, where they started out.

The INS lawsuit claims the City has no right to regulate the discharges at all, and that the ordinance was intended to put them out of business. It also attacks CCNS as having been the spearhead for the ordinance and the efforts to shut down INS. In addition to its attack on the ordinance, INS seeks money damages from the City.

"Our role is to educate the public and our City officials about violations of the laws protecting citizens from radioactive contamination, and that's what we did and will continue to do," states Lee Lysne, Executive Director of CCNS. "Leroy Romero came to CCNS to get help stopping the illegalities he perceived at INS. It's too bad the State didn't listen to him, but we are grateful the City Council understands the issue and enacted the ordinance and is actively defending it. It seems that INS's real goal is to intimidate the City into settling and throwing out the ordinance. We are proud that the City Council won't cave in to this kind of threat."

Santa Fe Passes Unprecedented Radioactive Discharge Protection For It's Sewers.

Community organizing by Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety and hard work by committed Santa Fe city staffers spurred the Santa Fe city council on Wednesday, Feb. 12. 1997 to enact historic regulation of radioactive waste discharge into the city sewer. By a unanimous vote, the council rejected arguments from Interstate Nuclear Services, the 'nuclear laundry', and enacted legislation sponsored by Councilors Patti Bushee and Molly Whitted designed to protect the city's economic interests from rad waste dumping. INS, which has been shut down since May, 1996 because of permit violations, has for 30 years laundered clothing contaminated with plutonium and other long lived radionuclides and discharged its wastewater into the Santa Fe sewer system. The sewer system discharges into the Santa Fe River, which affects many downstream users from traditional villages to Cochiti Pueblo.

"Over 2,000 citizens and businesses supported this ordinance to protect us from rad waste dumping in the sewer," said Lee Lysne, Executive Director of CCNS. "It appears that we are the first municipality in the nation to enact legislation of this type. Recent research shows that cities may enact regulations such as these which are more stringent than state or federal laws to protect the economic interests of the municipalities.

INS has claimed this ordinance will shut them down. We don't believe it, but if so, our next plan is to make sure the nuclear laundry doesn't just move elsewhere and pollute someone else's river. We have secured cooperation from individuals and pro nuclear groups who formerly opposed us to make a united effort to get the nuclear laundries back on-site at the weapons facilities and nuclear power plants which generate the waste. INS has 14 other facilities, and their radioactive waste doesn't belong in anyone's river. Here is a list of INS facilities in the United States.

Interstate Nuclear Services Inc. (INS) facilities in the US:

  • 700 S. Etiwanda, Ontario, California 91761
  • 210 Miller Street, Vicksburg, Mississippi, 39180
  • 2424 Robertson Drive, Richland, Washington 99352
  • 3050 Ualera St. #C, Honolulu, Hawaii 96819
  • 295 Parker St., Springfield, Massachusetts 00151
  • 811 S. Edisto Ave, Colombia, South Carolina 29205
  • 2001 Laigh Road, Portsmouth, Virginia 23701
  • 3061 Houston Ave., Macon, Georgia 31206
  • 1006 3rd Ave, Morris, Illinois 60450
  • 401 North Third Avenue, Royerford, Pennsylvania 19468
  • 1310 Siler Road, Santa Fe, NM 87505
  • 820 Jimmy Dean Ave., Osceola, Iowa 50213 (closed?)