Aug 1, 2007
By ANDY LENDERMAN | The New Mexican
July 31, 2007
A federal advisory board that monitors the environment and nuclear waste cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory is looking for members.
There are 10 openings for the Northern New Mexico Citizens Advisory Board, a volunteer group that closely studies environmental contamination at the lab and ways to fix it. The board formally advises the U.S. Department of Energy on environmental matters, and the director is recruiting.
“We’re chartered by the DOE,” explained Menice Santistevan, the board’s executive director. “The department is obliged to respond to our recommendations.”
The board, which currently has 14 members from all over the north, is “the conduit between DOE and the citizens of Northern New Mexico,” Santistevan said.
Cleanup at the lab is no small matter. The lab estimates roughly 700 sites need to be cleaned up at a total cost of $1 billion. Also, the New Mexico Environment Department is working to enforce a legal agreement that governs cleanup at the lab, except for radionuclides like plutonium, which is regulated by the federal government.
Board volunteers only need the time to attend meetings and the interest to learn about these issues. “You don’t have to have a technical background,” Santistevan said.
There are six board meetings a year, and committees meet monthly.
Board chairman J.D. Campbell, a Taos engineer, said the ongoing investigation of the groundwater-monitoring program at the lab has been a success for the board. Although that effort was initiated by an outside engineer, the board pursued the issue and enlisted the help of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lab, Campbell said. The end result was a study performed by the National Research Council, which concluded more work needs to be done to find out how lab operations could impact groundwater.
“That has been a fulfilling and continuing effort,” Campbell said.
Campbell also highlighted the board’s work around explaining options for Area G, a 65-acre dump at the lab that opened in 1957. There are about 200 pits and 38 shafts at that dump, and environmentalists have expressed concern that waste could eventually seep into the regional aquifer from the unlined dump. Lab officials say the dump is 850 feet above the aquifer and no contamination has been detected.
Options include capping the dump and monitoring it, or although expensive, moving it to another place.
“We are now planning another public meeting early next year to pursue all those alternatives and go get feedback for the public before the state ... makes a choice on the remedy,” Campbell said.
For more information, call the Northern New Mexico Citizens Advisory Board at 989-1662 or visit www.nnmcab.org.
Contact Andy Lenderman at 995-3827 or email@example.com.