Jun 8, 2007

New report examines LANL cleanup efforts

By Staci Matlock | The New Mexican
June 8, 2007

Concerns continue for health of regional groundwater sources; lab officials say they take impacts on water supplies seriously

Los Alamos National Laboratory still has a lot of work to do in understanding contamination threats to the regional aquifer from waste produced from decades-long nuclear research programs, according to a report released Friday by the National Research Council.

The lab has until 2015 to identify and remediate groundwater contamination under a 1995 state Environment Department order.

While the lab has made great strides in understanding how water moves through layers of rock, sand and clay around the its 43-square-mile site, researchers lag in understanding the source of contaminants and how they may be moving from the surface into groundwater, according to the council, an arm of the non-profit National Academies.

LANL scientists still don’t understand how contaminants might move between watersheds, the report says.

The lab also needs to beef up its communications with the public on groundwater protection efforts and allow more peer review of the ongoing research into groundwater contamination around Los Alamos, according to the report.

“It is a work in progress. What they’ve done so far seems good,” Larry W. Lake, a University of Texas geosystems engineering professor and chair of the committee that wrote the report. “What we looked at was what they plan to do next.”

Greg Mello, executive director of the LANL watchdog Los Alamos Study Group, said the lab’s groundwater research program doesn’t address a key issue – the Lab is continuing to dispose of contaminated solid waste in unlined pits.

“People think this is about net cleanup going on,” Mello said. “Some areas are getting cleaned up; other areas are getting dumped on. Existing sites continue leaching into the groundwater.”

Instead of spending a lot of money on research, the Lab could already have cleaned up existing contamination sites, Mello said.

James Rickman, lab spokesman, said the current staff is committed to cleaning up the contamination and protecting groundwater.

“People could argue that in the past we could have done a better job of clean up. No one really disputes that,” Rickman said.

Now, “the consent order is our guide to clean up and we take the consent order very seriously. The tenor among the staff right now is it wants to make the clean up as effective and efficient as possible.”

He said the radioactive waste buried at dry pits at the lab's Area G will be shipped to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant by 2015 and acknowledged some waste was continuing to be buried there.

That waste is the prime source of some groundwater contamination, such as chromium for the lab’s power generating plant. Rickman said the lab plans to stop all contaminated liquid waste disposals in the canyons before 2015.

The committee thought the lab had done a good job with the liquid waste disposal, Lake said.

“We didn’t give them such high marks for the so called (25) dry sites,” he said. “Those are pits up on the mesa where contaminants were dumped and covered up. Their reasoning is those contaminants are less mobile.”

Lake said he thought the lab could meet all the requirements of the state consent order by the 2015 deadline if it followed the report’s recommendations.

Los Alamos National Laboratory has disposed of its radioactive and other waste on lab property since the 1940s. The state Environment Department is concerned those wastes could leak into the region’s groundwater aquifer and contaminate drinking water wells.

The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management.


Anonymous said...

How can LANL clean up if DOE does not budget for it?

Anonymous said...

6:32PM - Same procedure with any other DOE mandated safety and security procedures. We charge WFO programs (DOE, DOD, NIH) and do the science that we are supposed to do for these programs after ours and on weekends.

Anonymous said...

Gee, what a great neighbor the Lab is to northern New Mexico. How we managed to survive for thousands of years without the considerate over-paid world class scientists of Los Alamos trashing our water shed is beyond me. Chaulk one more up for the arrogant butt-heads of Los Alamos National Laboratory!

Anonymous said...

Yea, that's the ticket! Send us a few more billion dollars so we can study the problem first. We have to "understand" the problem first before we can fix it. Huh? Oh, just ignore that pipe dripping toxic waste into the canyon. What was I saying? Oh yea, give us a few billion to "understand" the problem first, then once we start running out of those funds give us a few billion more to model a solution and then, after that, a few billion more to begin impementing the solution and then, after that, a few billion more to monitor our solution, then a few billion more after that to fix the solution and by then, I'm ready to retire. Problem solved!

Anonymous said...

Oh, did I forget to mention? We'll need at least a couple of hundred million more to publish and sponsor conferences regarding our solution.

Anonymous said...

If the laboratory does fail, and we all leave northern NM and your racism behind, it will be amusing to watch the decent of the into third-world status. You lab bashers that are local (just just remote trolls) all deserve it. We actually have marketable skills that will pay us well elsewhere as well. It is true that fry cooks are needed all over the place too, but the pay is the same. Without LANL pumping up the economy, you will find the fry cook business pays less than it did before and will pay equivalent to, oh, I don't know, Jackson, Mississippi. Enjoy your wrecked economy, you pack of pathetic losers.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 6/9/07 9:33 AM said...

"If the laboratory does fail, and we all leave northern NM and your racism behind, it will be amusing to watch the decent of the into third-world status."

This commentor is correct. Northern New Mexico is extremely and unabashedly racist.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the racism comments. Los Alamos is definitely a hotbed of racism; which is why it's known to many as the Johannesburg of northern New Mexico. Too bad we all have to drink the same water though. A poisoned aquifer doesn't discriminate.

Anonymous said...

9:33AM, if you need help packing your bags just ask. By the way, don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. Good riddance.

Anonymous said...

I was born in NM and have been here most of my life. Northern NM is quite racist on multiple levels. Los Alamos is certainly not absent these attitudes either, but the real ugliness in this regard lies off the hill. Traditional Hispanics hate Mexicans (meaning direct and recent immigrants from Mexico). Native Americans hate Hispanics. And on and on and on. This is an interesting area because so many different cultures come together. It also means that the ugly side of this comes out at times, sometimes frequently. I have both witnessed it and had it directed at me first hand. Many times. Including in Los Alamos, but not nearly as frequently or overtly as off the Hill. Other parts of the state don't seem to be nearly as bad as this area, which I mostly attribute to the many different cultures that are collected here. Rest of the state does not have this to the same extent.

If the lab were to fold and folks like me left, despite your joy over this prospect, this area really would turn for the worst. Quickly.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, the anti-northern New Mexico poster is pretty clearly the chemist TSM who caused the aqua regia incident several years ago.

This TSM was on a real "gravy train," supported by powerful patrons, and was placed on LDRD committees.

The world turns. Her patrons are out of power and others are in power.

She is a notorious whiner.

Anonymous said...

5:42PM must have been drinking polluted water all his/her life. To suggest southern New Mexico (little Texas) is better than northern New Mexico when it comes to racist attitudes tells me this person is cut from the same cloth as the red necks from down south. This person's perspective on the subject is about as "fair and balanced" as Fox News. Fact: until just a generation ago the business community of Roswell, Carlsbad and Hobbs routinely posted signs in their establishments proclaiming dogs and Mexians (meaning ALL Hispanics) not allowed. So basically, in my "unbiased" view, 5:42PM is simply full of shit!

Anonymous said...

Let me see if I understand. In the 1940’s 33 Hispanic homesteading families were removed by force from the Los Alamos plateau so that today we may have the nation’s wealthiest Anglo community residing in northern New Mexico? And that community (Los Alamos) then, in a single generation created an environmental disaster in the making (contamination of the aquifer) that threatens traditional Hispanic and Native American communities downstream for generations to come, and they—these Hispanic and Native American communities, are the one’s who are racists? Wow! Take about an Alice in Wonderland view of the world!

Anonymous said...

11:27 seems to have a problem with reading comprehension. I did not say it was better elsewhere, just different. It is more overt in this part of NM than I have seen elsewhere. It is an observation after over 40 years of living in New Mexico and personally dealing with the issue on multiple levels.

What is your experience?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps 12:23 would like to start a hispanics and native american repatriation fund. They can join the one for slavery. Perhaps Al Sharpton will take up your cause. Moron.

Anonymous said...

6:19PM has a great idea. Repatriating idiots like himself would help tremendously.

Anonymous said...

6:18PM (alias 6:19PM) is just too brilliant for the average person to comprehend. No wonder the Lab is in such great shape. The "best and brightest" doing the "worlds best science" for humanity...NOT!

Anonymous said...

Bottom line: you guys lost. You've resented it ever since. Now you want the big mean old lab to lose and go away, as revenge.

If it happens, I hope you enjoy your return to third-world status. Losers.

Anonymous said...

I find it sad to read these last post, as the lab falls into obsecurity, the employeess' now are filled with anger , anger toward the lab, anger towards northern New Mexico, but most of all anger towards themselves, LAN's with their worthless management does not know enough to keep the workforce informed and supported during these trying times....I am afraid that this is just the beganning of a steep decline...I am saddend....