Aug 17, 2007
Traffic was diverted early Wednesday evening as emergency personnel from Los Alamos National Laboratory lifted dirt samples from the ground at the intersection of DP Road and Trinity Drive. The samples, which turned out negative, were taken to determine if elevated radioactive levels were present from spillage discovered Tuesday during transport of contaminated soil removed from TA-21 on DP Road.
LANL spokesman James Rickman explained the situation during an interview this morning.
"The lab moved a roll-off transportainer, (container placed on truck bed), containing borehole cuttings from TA-21 to the waste disposal area at TA-54 on Pajarito Road," Rickman said. "The borehole cuttings resulted from work required under the NMED (New Mexico Environment Department), consent order."
The cuttings inside the transportainer are wrapped in a plastic fabric, he said, adding that rainwater had apparently collected inside this transportainer.
When the shipment arrived inside TA-54, personnel there noticed liquid leaking from inside the back of the transportainer, Rickman said. As is standard procedure, personnel from TA-54 built a dyke around the liquid to prevent it from spreading.
LANL took samples of the leaked material and found no radiation levels above background - anything above naturally occurring levels, he said.
LANL personnel then retraced the route taken by the truck carrying the transportainer and found two areas on lab roadways where spills had occurred. One area was at the guard station at the bottom of Pajarito Road and the other was at the corner of Pajarito Road near the entrance to TA-54.
"We took samples and found no radiation above background," Rickman said.
As part of standard procedures, a radiological technician followed the truck to the intersection of DP Road and Trinity Drive when it left TA-21 on Tuesday.
"The technician did not see anything leaking from the truck during transport," Rickman said. "Even with the technician's observation, because the other areas of spills on lab property occurred when the truck had stopped, as a precaution the laboratory tested the DP Road, Trinity Drive intersection."
Rickman continued, "The samples from DP Road and Trinity Drive found no levels above background."
Rickman said LANL coordinated with Los Alamos County officials prior to sampling and has kept them apprised of their activities since then.
County Administrator Max Baker said this morning that the lab has been in contact with his office. "We received notification on this late yesterday and I've talked to the lab today as well," Baker said.
The borehole cuttings inside the transportainer contained trace amounts of radioactive materials from historic laboratory operations, Rickman said, adding that those cuttings were disposed of as planned in the TA-54 disposal area.
The lab is investigating this incident, he said, and examining transport procedures to ensure that an incident of this type does not happen again.