Boiling Frogs-Intel vs. the Village

"Boiling Frogs - Intel vs. the Village" recounts the story of Intel Rio Rancho's impact on the air and water in the Village of Corrales from the mid-1980s to the present day. Updates to this ongoing saga will be posted here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Scientist's Response to Intel Re ATSDR Report

After a somewhat quick and dirty review of the first 14 pages of the Intel response letter, I offer the following talking points for you to consider.

The first and major comment is that most of the Intel letter is at odds with the factual evidence, including FTIR measurements made on their property by their own contractor during an especially low-production period.

We hope ATSDR will base the content of their final report on facts, rather than who can afford the best PR department.

Intel's slick letter, filled with false and misleading information, is typical of the how the deck has consistently been stacked against the public by Intel and the politicians who benefit from Intel's wealth.

ATSDR may not want specific points, and you may not be able to bring up the points without seeming to read. But you could always say you have extensive notes you'll be referring to.

2nd paragraph on page 2: Intel taking credit for involving the community must mean the Community Environmental Working Group. Intel established this group, chose the members, the leader, and facilitator, and controls the agendas. This is and always has been part of Intel's PR effort to project a favorable image.

Later in that same paragraph, they claim "periodic measurements of emissions to verify that plant emissions are within specified limits" They neglect to say that they report only calculated emissions, using unverified emission factors as multipliers. And that their permit, called a sham and a farce by Jim Shively, NMED's permit expert, was written to be "bust-proof and unenforceable."

Two other former NMED employees went on record supporting Mr. Shively, in published interviews. And another 16 NMED retirees expressed their willingness to do likewise. Robert Samaniego, then the NMED Permit Compliance Officer, admitted in a published interview that the reason it took five years to approve Intel's minor-source permit was because a large majority of NMED professionals opposed it. Their professional concerns were over-ridden when the governor ordered his political appointee, who headed NMED, to approve whatever Intel wanted.

The fact that Intel complies with a "bust-proof" permit proves nothing. It's like bragging about not getting a speeding ticket when driving on an Autobahn that has no speed limit. We have often said, and they have never denied, Intel could release more than 5 tons of phosgene in an hour or less, killing tens of thousands of people and animals, without violating their sham permit. And Intel's permit allows them to release ton quantities of other chemicals that are even more toxic.

Three Intel whistle-blowers have also gone on record in published interviews to say Intel knew it was releasing hazardous levels of toxic chemicals, but made a deliberate effort to cover up that information. The whistle-blowers lost their jobs when they refused to be part of that cover up.

First new paragraph on page 3: Intel takes more credit for their fully-controlled CEWG, which I've already covered.

Near the end of page 3: Although Radian was hired by Intel, and wanted to please their customer, the Radian risk assessment expressed concern about the downwash of Intel emissions into nearby residential areas. The Radian report also said Intel stacks were too low.

The downwash problem continues unabated. And recently, Intel ignored the recommendation of its own CEWG to raise their stacks to a level that would significantly decrease their toxic chemicals that get into the breathing zone of nearby residential areas. Instead, Intel chose only a small height increase to prevent their stacks from being visible from Highway 528, to promote the fictional image of being a safe industry.

The modeling analysis mentioned in the last line on page 4 found a strong correlation between airflow from Intel when nearby residents reported strong chemical odors and resulting adverse health effects.

The last paragraph on page 5 quotes Mary Uhl, of NMED. They fail to say that Ms. Uhl earlier stated that the Koracin modeling study identified Intel as the most likely source of the toxic emissions.

Ms. Uhl and Ms. Len Flowers of the NM Dept. of Health had scheduled presentations in support of the Koracin report findings at the next Task Force meeting. To prevent those presentations, Environment Secretary Ron Curry canceled all Task Force meetings for the next six weeks, and then prevented the Task Force from writing their final report by having NMED write it, to ensure the exoneration of Intel.

Ms. Uhl was soon thereafter promoted to Section Chief, perhaps in exchange for her belated silence.

The FTIR monitoring by Arcadis is cited on page 7. Not mentioned is that Intel was a pre-existing customer of Arcadis services, and that Arcadis had listed increased business from Intel as one of its major goals for 2003. This blatant conflict of interest resulted in Arcadis declaring phosgene and nine other measured Intel-released chemicals as false positives.

The second new paragraph on page 7 states "the large majority of chemicals detected in highest concentrations are those associated with vehicle emissions."
That may have been true during the day, but the large majority of chemicals found after midnight, when vehicle traffic is lowest, are Intel emissions. Moreover, the highest concentrations of these post-midnight chemicals were found at Intel's east boundary, closest to residential areas, and furthest from Highway 528.

The Intel weather station cited in the first new paragraph on page 8 does not reflect the airflow distortions caused by Intel buildings, nor does it account for the downwash caused by Intel buildings.

This same paragraph again focuses on daytime vehicle emissions, whereas most resident complaints are reported for the post-midnight hours.

The modeling discussion on page 9 again tries to confuse us by focusing on daytime sources, whereas the strong chemical odors and adverse health effects of nearby residents occur when other possible sources are minimal.

As discussed in one of the public comments sent earlier, Gradient's main business is defending industrial polluters. Gradient failed to interview even one resident who reported adverse health effects, but instead relied totally on input from Intel and NMED.

Intel's attempt to blame any and all other possible sources for their own toxic emissions is repeated on page 11. This ignores the strong correlation found by the Koracin modeling study. It also ignores the fact that strong chemical odors and related health problems were absent until Intel greatly expanded its operations in the early 1990s.

On page 12, Intel claims to spend $500,000 a year to validate the effectiveness of its emission controls. This is another attempt to mislead ATSDR and the public, because Intel reports only calculated values (even when their infrequent measurements show much higher release).

As long as only calculated values are reported, no one - including Intel - knows what they actually release. The cited $500,00 should be chalked up as another image-building expense.

In the first new paragraph on page 13, Intel opposes more monitoring. That is not surprising because Intel consistently opposed any and all monitoring until Corrales residents donated $93,000 to buy its own community owned and operated FTIR. Only then did Intel change course and "allow" NMED to begin monitoring. Interestingly, NMED's opposition to monitoring closely followed Intel's change.

If Intel were as innocent as they claim, they would welcome any and all monitoring that would confirm their innocence. However, their past and present opposition is more likely an effort to prevent self-incrimination.

Intel's conclusion on pages 13 and 14 ignores the hundreds of complaints reported by Intel's nearby residents. It is worth noting that hundreds of these complaints were "lost" by NMED during a computer changeover.


Fred Marsh, CRCAW


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