The Buckman Direct Diversion Project Board sent a letter to the Department of Energy (DOE) and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) this week requesting that they do more to protect surface water, groundwater and regional drinking water from LANL contaminants.
The Buckman Direct Diversion Project is a proposal by the City of Santa Fe, the County of Santa Fe and Las Campanas to divert 8,730 acre feet a year of San Juan-Chama water from the Rio Grande at the Buckman site. The proposed diversion site is about 15 miles northwest of the City, across the Rio Grande from LANL.
The Board requested DOE and LANL “stop the continued migration of LANL-origin waste to the environment, mitigate the impacts of wastes that have escaped the LANL boundaries and are in the environment at the location of the planned [Buckman Direct Diversion Project], and otherwise reduce the burdens and costs that these wastes place on our regional drinking water project.” Please see attached letter.
The letter is in response to issues raised by a group of non-govermental organizations and individuals, including CCNS and registered geologist, Robert H. Gilkeson, about the transport of LANL toxic, hazardous and radioactive contaminants to the proposed diversion site. They have been meeting with City staff over the past few months to discuss their concerns and offer suggestions for addressing the LANL contaminants.
The Board asked DOE and LANL to fund and implement six steps to protect public drinking water supplies. These include stopping the migration of LANL contaminants to the Rio Grande and to groundwater; to properly monitor the transport of contaminants in both surface water and groundwater; and to create an early warning system so that the project may temporarily stop diverting Rio Grande water when elevated levels of LANL contaminants are being transported through surface water.
The City is taking additional steps to learn more about the transport of LANL contaminants in water. For example, CCNS will be making a short presentation to the Santa Fe Public Utilities Committee on Wednesday, November 7. The presentation will focus on the fact that LANL does not have a reliable monitoring program for the detection of LANL contaminants traveling as surface water or groundwater to the Rio Grande, to the proposed Buckman Direct Diversion Project and to the Buckman Well Field.
CCNS will present the problems with the well R-16, which LANL drilled into the regional aquifer as a sentry well for the Buckman Wellfield. Well R-16 is located in White Rock to monitor the transport of LANL contaminants from the Area G low-level waste dump to the Buckman Wellfield. Approximately 40% of Santa Fe’s drinking water is pumped from the Buckman Wellfield.
Well R-16 was drilled with over 50,000 pounds of bentonite clay drilling muds and 800 gallons of organic fluids that mask the detection of LANL contaminants. Further, the sampling screens were not placed where groundwater moves the quickest, which is essential to detect fast-moving contaminants. The background presentation materials may be found on the CCNS website.
The Public Utilities Committee meeting will take place at the City Council Chambers, beginning at 5:15 pm.