NMED Tells DOE Widespread Waste At DP Road Represents Substantial Risk To Human Health, Environment

img_7973Workers in February at the DP Road site where contaminated waste was found on property turned over to Los Alamos County. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com


New Mexico Environment Department officials are unhappy with the Department of Energy’s response to the discovery in February of contamination at the Middle DP Road Site in Los Alamos. NMED has given DOE 30 days to provide a schedule of preliminary screening plan (PSP) activities that “indicates that DOE understands the seriousness of this matter” including a timeframe for implementation for its implementation.

In a letter signed by NMED Hazardous Waste Bureau Chief Kevin Pierard and sent to DOE Los Alamos NNSA and Environmental Management Field Office managers, DOE has been asked to include the basis for the current delay and limitations in implementation of the PSP “to ensure full transparency and understanding of why this important risk to public health is not being addressed in a more timely manner”.

In April 7, 2020, NMED directed DOE to develop and implement a PSP that would include sampling and investigation activities and a schedule for implementing those activities.

“Although DOE agreed to develop a PSP, it did not provide a schedule for development and implementation of a PSP. DOE stated that it intends to complete tasks associated with Section X of the Consent Order ‘as soon as practicable’,” the letter states.

Pierard notes that based on information provided to NMED since the discovery of the Middle DP Road Site on February 14, “contamination appears to be widespread”.

“DOE conveyed during a meeting held on June 8, 2020 that it has no immediate plan to prepare a PSP and indicated it would be prepared and implemented sometime in 2021. DOE’s focus appears to be on installation of upgraded sewage infrastructure for two housing projects rather than planning for the

investigation and cleanup of the site,” Pierard said. “Although we understand Los Alamos County’s interest in completing the sewer project and DOE’s commitment to assisting this effort, the continued delay in development of the PSP is not reasonable.”

Pierard said the widespread waste at the site represents “a substantial risk to human health and the environment”.

“Therefore, NMED does not find the pace at which DOE is investigating the matter acceptable or appropriate. DOE must expedite planning and implementation of the PSP pursuant to Section X of the Consent Order to fully characterize the nature and extent of contamination on this property,” his letter states.

A request by the Los Alamos Reporter Wednesday to DOE/NNSA for information on the DP Road situation resulted in a written statement from PIO Toni Chiri that DOE had radiological control technicians on site during the May excavation project.

“Work was stopped upon discovery of the material, including glass shards, wood and metal objects. RCTs surveyed the excavation equipment and found it free of contamination,” the statement says. “DOE is developing plans to continue sampling and analysis of the DP Road excavation site, as well as areas of potential contamination on surrounding property. The site is secure and the public is protected. Air monitoring is on-going and no airborne contamination has been detected to date. We are working closely with the New Mexico Environment Department to determine the safest and best path forward. DOE will provide a more detailed schedule and timeframe for characterizing and remediating the site as plans are finalized.”

The statement said the excavation area, south of the site where the contractor unearthed contaminated material in mid-February, is for installation of sewage infrastructure for an affordable housing construction project.

“The area is secured from public access. DOE is communicating frequently with Los Alamos County to address the issue and working with the county to allow the continued safe installation of utilities in the area”, the statement said.

Chiri indicated Thursday morning that a statement on the NMED letter will be forthcoming.

Los Alamos County Manager Harry Burgess is slated to give a presentation on DP Road at the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities meeting Friday afternoon.

See previous Los Alamos Reporter stories on the DP Road issue at: