Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

By Thomas Garcia
Senior writer 

Borehole meeting draws 130

Residents expressed displeasure, concerns about the project's purpose.

 

March 22, 2017 | View PDF

Thomas Garcia

More than 130 residents attended an informational meeting about a proposed borehole project in Quay County on March 14 at the Logan Civic Center. Officials for the project did not attend because they say there was a hostile environment at the previous meeting.

Despite the absence of energy company officials, more than 130 county residents shared concerns about nuclear waste March 14 during a public information meeting at the Logan Civic Center.

The Department of Energy wants to drill narrow, vertical holes called boreholes in Nara Visa to do a study to find out if storing nuclear waste in them is an alternative to mined geologic repositories for smaller forms of nuclear waste.

Quay County residents aren't too happy about the concept with residents accusing DOE officials of potentially storing nuclear waste in their county later if the study is successful.

Officials of the Atlanta-based Enercon and DOSECC Exploration Services of Salt Lake City, which were hired by the DOE for the project did not attend the Tuesday meeting in Logan. DOSECC Project Manager Marc Eckles said last week that after the Monday meeting in Dalhart, Texas, the decision was made by officials to not attend the Tuesday meeting in Logan, saying there were several conditions agreed upon that were not met during the Monday meeting.

He said officials were told there would be an impartial moderator, but the meeting was moderated by Bart Wyatt, who is opposed to the project.

Eckles said Enercon and DOSECC officials had a limited time to speak and a project summary was not allowed to be presented, and the following Q&A session was aggressive in nature with a majority of those in attendance being New Mexico residents.

He said company officials will continue with public outreach.

Nara Visa resident Ed Hughes said at the Tuesday meeting that company officials will continue to advocate that that the proposed project is a science project that will gather data for the DOE and once the research is done, they will leave.

But he's not buying it.

"This project opens the door to Quay County possibly becoming a nuclear waste disposal site," he said. "Just being associated with nuclear waste will affect the county's property values, tourism and recreational revenue. People don't want to move to an area that could one day store nuclear waste."

Hughes said a potential leak from waste stored in a borehole would contaminate an area of 50 miles, and the companies will be drilling through the Ogallala Aquifer that supplies drinking water to Quay County.

Enercon and DOSECC officials say the disposal of the nuclear waste will occur near the production site of the waste, said Logan resident TJ Smith said during the Tuesday meeting.

"If I was going to start a vineyard in Quay County, I would not plant my grapes in Nevada to see if they will grow," Smith said, adding that it does not make sense for the DOE to contract companies to drill test boreholes in Quay County if they intend to store the waste somewhere else; the data collected in Quay County will not be useful for drilling boreholes for waste storage in a different location.

Hughes pointed out that the borehole project would generate $100,000 a year in gross receipts taxes in the five years of drilling the first borehole, but Quay County's agricultural production was more than $90 million in 2015.

Having a test project of this nature in Quay County could reduce those revenues and other economic revenues, he added.

Nara Visa resident Jay Cammack said he has tried to find out about the requirements that the DOE is looking for in the granite sites they plan to drill, but to date, no one has told him what is acceptable, desirable or undesirable.

"Early opposition to this project by the residents of the communities and county is crucial," Smith said. "Don't expect your neighbor to take the lead; you need to voice your opposition, attend the meetings. What could go wrong might not go wrong for 100 years, but the effects will last thousands of years."

Another meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. March 27 at the Tucumcari Convention Center.

Eckles did not say if company officials will attend the meeting.

 

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