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May 10, 2001

First WIPP delivery passes through Pecos

Staff Writer

PECOS, May 10, 2001 - The first shipment of low-level radioactive waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, N.M. to pass through Pecos did so without either fanfare or incident late Wednesday night.

The shipment, which consisted of 42 drums of transuranic waste, left the U.S. Department of Energy's Savannah River Site, near Aiken, S.C. at noon on Tuesday, and passed through Pecos along U.S. 285 at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday. The truck arrived at WIPP, a 90-mile trip north of Pecos by highway, at 1:40 a.m. this morning.

The delivery was not the first to the WIPP site, which began receiving transuranic waste in March of 1999, but was the first delivery from one of the five sites in the Eastern United States that will require shipments to pass through Pecos. The truck passed through town unescorted following a brief stop at the Flying J truck stop, after it had traveled over 1,200 miles on Interstate 20 from South Carolina to Pecos.

Transuranic waste consists of clothing, tools, rags, debris, residues and other disposal items contaminated with radioactive elements, mostly plutonium.

Savannah River is the fifth DOE site to ship waste to WIPP for permanent disposal. Four other sites were already shipping waste to WIPP: Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site (Colorado), Los Alamos National Laboratory (New Mexico), Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, and Hanford Site (Washington).

"This shipment shows that DOE is meeting its commitment to the people of South Carolina and the nation by ensuring the safe disposal of waste," said Dr. Ines Triay, Manager of DOE's Carlsbad Field Office.

The 1,540-mile trip took approximately 39 ½ hours, including time required for WIPP drivers to stop and inspect the truck every 100 miles or two hours. The inspection stops are performed in accordance with U.S. Department of Transportation regulations.

During the next 33 years, the Savannah River Site will send approximately 1,800 shipments of transuranic waste to WIPP.

WIPP, a cornerstone of DOE's cleanup effort, is the nation's first repository for the permanent disposal of defense-generated transuranic radioactive waste left from the research and production of nuclear weapons.

Located in southeastern New Mexico, 26 miles southeast of Carlsbad and 75 miles north of Pecos, project facilities include disposal rooms excavated in an ancient, stable salt formation, 2,150 feet underground.

For more information about WIPP, call 1-800-336-9477 or visit the WIPP web site at

Council hears complaints about phone bill increases

Staff Writer

PECOS, May 10, 2001 - A few local residents expressed some concern over their telephone bills from Valor Telecom during the Town of Pecos City Council meeting on Tuesday at City Hall.

Marty Parks and Karen Chowning discussed about their concern over the continuous rise in their phone bills since Valor took over the local phone system from Verizon last September.

Parks and Chowning explained that the rise in total bills seems to be the large number of various taxes that have caused their bills to go up by half.

Parks said that his latest bill totaled $112 with only $50 of it actually for his phone calls, while the rest going to taxes.

He said that he has tried to contact Valor to ask questions about his bill and has not been satisfied with the service and treatment he has received.

"Your lucky if you get a human (to talk to)," he said.

Parks said when he is able to speak with an actual person they are very rude and after hours of talking the Valor representatives blame the Council for the rise in bills.

"They're saying the City Council has voted in some kind of tax out here that causes this bill to skyrocket," he said.

City Manager Carlos Yerena said that the only tax that the city has approved is a franchise tax.

Valor representative Cynthia Cruz said that in contrast to what Parks said he was told by the company, the city has no control over what taxes are charged to the customers.

"They (the council) play no role in determining the fee amount," she said.

Cruz said that Valor also has no control over how many taxes the customer is charged with and the amount they pay.

She said that the taxes are federal and state-mandated taxes as well as surcharges approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

"We're just the bill collectors," she said. "We're just required to pass them along to the customers."

Cruz said that just before Valor came into this area the Texas Public Utilities Commission determined that there would be a rate increase on a few of the taxes but that the customers received a message in their May 4 phone bill explaining the change.

Cruz said that each tax on the bill is explained on the Valor website,, under the billing and payment section.

She said that at the website the customers could "get a definition and explanation of what these fees are."

"These are federally mandated or mandated by the state or local fees," she said. "When we pass these fees on to the customer we're essentially just complying with federal, state and local authorities."

The taxes that are explained on the website include the Interstate Subscriber Line charge, the Federal Universal Service Fund charge, FCC Telecommunication Relay Svc, Local Number Portability Surcharge, Federal Excise Tax, State and Local Sales taxes, Municipal Franchise Fee, Texas Universal Service, Extended Area Service, Expanded Calling Surcharge, Emergency Calling Surcharge, Emergency Service Charge and the Cost of Service surcharge.

During the Council meeting, Chowning also complained about rude the customer service representatives from Valor.

"They are not helpful," she said.

Parks said that it seems that the representatives are always trying to finish the conversation as quickly as possible.

"They try the quickest way they can to get you off the phone," he said.

Yerena said that he would look into this situation and would even invite a Valor representative to the next council meeting.

Cruz said that there is no reason that the customers would not be able to get a hold of an actual person during business hours.

"They should be able to access someone in our customer service department during business hours," she said.

Valor Telecom Customer Service business hours are from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., on Saturdays, according to Cruz.

Postal Serivce food drive set for Saturday

PECOS, May 10, 2001 - Pecos Post Office employees will be sponsoring a "food drive" this Saturday in the Pecos area.

Postal employees will be picking up canned foods during their annual food drive.

"We ask that they put the canned goods by their mailboxes and the carrier will pick it up," said Pecos Postmaster Herman Armendariz. "If they want to donate more than one item, they can place them in a bag."

He said that the post office is asking that no glass items be placed outside for donation.

"This is a yearly event and we appreciate the community's assistance," said Armendariz.


Victor Chavez and Celia Tarango


PECOS, May 10, 2001 - High Wednesday 97. Low this morning 61. Forecast for tonight: Partly cloudy with a chance of evening showers and thunderstorms. Low 55 to 60. Southeast wind 5 to 15 mph. The chance of rain is 30 percent. Friday: Partly cloudy with a 20 percent chance of showers or thunderstorms. High in the lower 90s. South wind 10 to 20 mph. Friday night: Partly cloudy with a 30 percent chance of showers or thunderstorms. Low 55 to 60. Saturday: Partly cloudy with a slight chance of showers or thunderstorms. High in the upper 80s to the mid 90s. Sunday: Partly cloudy. Lows near 60. Highs in the upper 80s to the mid 90s.

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