NMED To Issue Notice Of Proposed Penalty To LANL

LANL NSSB Bldg 2Image Courtesy LANL


New Mexico Environment Department officials have sent a notice of violation with proposed penalties to Los Alamos National Laboratory after determining that LANL has violated the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Management Regulations and LANL’s Hazardous Waste Operating Permit.

The NMED letter indicates that the agency may by law issue a Compliance Order requiring compliance immediately or within a specified time period, or assess a civil penalty for any past or current violations of up to $10,000 per day of non-compliance for each violation, or both. It also has the option to commence a civil action in District Court for appropriate relief, including a temporary or permanent injunction.

“Any such order may include a suspension or revocation of any permit issued by NMED. Due to the nature and severity of the violations listed above, and LANL’s past history of noncompliance with 20.4.1 NMAC, NMED will propose a civil penalty for these violations in the Notice of Proposed Penalty letter, which will follow as a separate, settlement privileged document” the letter concludes.

A Lab spokesman said Tuesday that of the thousands of hazardous waste containers that the facility safely ships each year, four of them from 2015 to 2017 have been determined by the Laboratory to have previously unreported administrative discrepancies.  He said at no time was the public or the environment at risk from hazardous material.

“While that record represents well over a 99% success rate, we believe we can and must do better. We are analyzing our waste characterization process to identify process improvements to assist us develop more accurate and complete shipping manifests,” the spokesman said. “We continue to strive to maintain the best possible compliance record, particularly when it comes to protecting the environment, the public and our workforce.”

Some of the violations identified by NMED were because LANL allegedly failed to notify NMED with three days of hazardous waste characterization discrepancies:

  • In April a drum containing isopropyl alcohol and potassium hydroxide with a PH of 13 which contained 5 percent water was not properly labeled when transported off site.
  • Two drums were profiled as silica gel with solvents. One of the drums contained trace high explosives and the verification “showed these were dirt”.
  • Two drums were mislabeled in that they did not show they contained lead.
  • A container indicated contained “flammable liquids, toxic” but was later determined to have been wrongly labeled and should have been labeled “waste, corrosive, acidic waste”.

Some other violations were for failure to conduct preliminary characterization of a waste stream prior to actual generation and generate a Waste Profile Form.

  • Eight roll-off bins of construction debris from a re-roofing project at TA-16 were sent to the Santa Fe Landfill.
  • Fifteen demolition bins and eight miscellaneous dumpsters from TA-16 were sent to the Santa Fe Landfill.
  • Some 265 tons of waste concrete ad 240 tons of asphalt from TA-16 Pedestrian Portal were sent to the Los Alamos Landfill between April and November 2017.
  • In September 2017 multiple 20-yard bins of waste asphalt from TA-40-115 were sent to a disposal facility in Albuquerque without being tested for high explosive.
  • Forty tons of concrete and 18,000 cubic yards of soil from a renovation project at TA-50 were removed in 2016 and later determined to be low-level waste.
  • In December 2017, nine 55-gallon drums of paint sludge and sandblasting material were removed during a project which involved sandblasting a water tank.

The final group involved failure to complete a hazardous waste manifest correctly.

  • Incorrect UN ID number and improper shipping name.
  • Material listed as waste mercury shipped should have been listed as “waste mercury contained in manufactured articles.
  • Hazardous waste lead was listed as liquid in a container instead of solid.