Public hearing to discuss ventilation improvements in WIPP underground facility

There will be a very important hearing related to the future of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in May. This hearing, related to the excavation of a new shaft and associated connecting drifts, will offer several opportunities for residents to provide feedback. 

This process, if approved by the New Mexico Environment Department, will allow WIPP to make significant improvements to the ventilation of the WIPP underground. The modification will consist of a new shaft, along with drifts to connect this shaft to the existing WIPP underground facility. Improved ventilation to the WIPP underground creates a safer environment for the workforce and allows WIPP to handle a wider variety of tasks at once.

Some conditions of the hearing are still being worked out, but the virtual hearing will begin May 17, run from noon to 4 p.m. and then from 6-9 p.m. We understand that there will be technical testimony each day and an opportunity for public comment will be provided each evening. The hearing will continue every day until it is complete.  You will be able to participate by Zoom or call-in, and login information is posted here https://www.env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/wp-content/uploads/sites/12/2016/05/2021-03-18-HWB-Shaft-Hearing-Public-Notice-Final-Eng-Span.pdf

You may also submit written public comment to madai.corral@state.nm.us or New Mexico Environment Department, Room S-2100, 1190 S. St. Francis Drive, P.O. Box 5469, Santa Fe, NM, 87502-5469. W

For those of you who want to do more research, the New Mexico Environment Department has detailed information about this proposed permit modification up on its web page, including a fact sheet and the permit itself. These documents are also available at our library. I will be submitting comments in support of this new shaft. These upgrades will provide an advanced capability allowing WIPP to automatically adjust the intake fan and exhaust fan flow, improving on the control of the ventilation system. Our first priority at WIPP is the workforce- and we understand that the workforce at WIPP strongly supports this modification. It is also important to remember that WIPP is both an underground nuclear repository and a salt mine. Carlsbad has many residents who are some of the best experts in the world when it comes to salt mining who would be excellent witnesses at this hearing. 

We hope Carlsbad will have a high level of participation before and during this hearing. As the host community of WIPP, we want to make certain that WIPP’s ventilation system is safely developed. I support the construction of the new shaft and encourage the State of New Mexico to approve the permit modification request. 

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