Part of the TA-21 facility off DP Road. Courtesy photo
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Los Alamos County Council Chair Sara Scott has written to Department of Energy (DOE) Environmental Management Los Alamos EM-LA Field Office Manager Doug Hintze requesting a full environmental risk assessment this year of Material Disposal Area T.
Scott wants DOE to identify “the risks, potential cleanup, and potential cost to permit the County to make an informed decision on the potential uses of the site that can be used by DOE to make remediation decisions at the site”.
MDA T is a 2.2-acre radiological waste disposal site off DP Road in what is called Technical Area (TA) 21. It consists of four plutonium-contaminated absorption beds used to dispose of liquid wastes between 1945-1952; a retrievable waste storage area; a series of disposal shafts containing radioactive elements; an acid holding tank and acid sump; a caisson built in 1959 at the northwest corner of one of the absorption beds; an inactive container storage area for alcohol, acetone, and freon; and two surface spills of radioactive waste. TA-21, which was originally called the Delta Prime Site, is among the first technical areas constructed at LANL. DP West was a radioactive material processing area and DP East contained tritium facilities.
“For almost 10 years, the County has requested this data from EM both at the local site office and in direct meetings with appointed and acting EM Assistant Secretaries and NNSA Administrators. For years we have been told that the information is being developed, and in some cases that it has been developed. In fact, NNSA told the County in 2011 that the cost of the cleanup could be $1 billion and that the survey work was being undertaken at the time,” Scotts letter reads. “Around the same time DOE told the County that the environmental risk assessment would be complete by 2015. We understand that the information is not currently available in a form that will assist the County nor DOE to make an informed future use or cleanup decision.”
Scott’s letter asks what is the safest and most effective remedy for the MDA-T site, what is the risk if any to the community of leaving the waste in place and what is the risk of remediating it. She asks what is the cost and timing of various cleanup levels of the site.
“We have not made any pre-conceived conclusions – instead we are asking for the data to make an informed decision. We understand that EM is now starting this process. However, based on our past experiences with the site assessment, we would like EM leadership to confirm that it is supporting the review and that the review will be complete so the community can have the information to make informed decisions on cleanup,” the letter concludes.
Scott told the Los Alamos Reporter Tuesday that she along with County Manager Harry Burgess and Councilor David Izraelevitz met June 5 and 6 in Washington, DC, with New Mexico legislators, their staff and representatives of DOE and NNSA. She said key messages included support for environmental cleanup funding, the Laboratory mission and funding, and the County’s investments to help address current challenges and economic development as well as continuing to support education and regional initiatives.
“We also noted the importance of completing the risk assessment for DP Road areas including the MDA-T site as previously requested. This is critical for starting to understand and discuss future options,” Scott said.
According to information provided online by legacy waste cleanup contractor N3B, the company began defining potential final remedies for MDA-T this year and plans for 2020 to 2025 are to continue that process for public review and final selection of a remedy by the New Mexico Environment Department. N3B would then implement the final remedy, complete site remediation and complete all documentation necessary to allow transfer of the property to the County for “beneficial community use”.
At this time, no response to Scott’s letter has yet been received by the County.