BY MAIRE O’NEILL
The Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management Los Alamos and the National Nuclear Security Administration Los Alamos Field Office have responded to New Mexico Environment Department concerns about the DOE’s failure to address their plans for mitigation of contamination at Middle DP Road. Since February, there have been at least three discoveries of radioactive material in the vicinity of two housing projects underway on property that was turned over to Los Alamos County by NNSA for public use.
NMED has complained that DOE has failed to provide a schedule of preliminary screening plan (PSP) activities that indicates that DOE “understands the seriousness of this matter” and has not provided a timeframe for implementation of the plan. NMED has asked DOE for the basis of the delay in implementing 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 a letter to DOE, NMED acknowledged Los Alamos County’s interest in completing the sewer project and DOE’s commitment to assisting with that, but called the continued delay in development of the PSP unreasonable.
In the response letter, DOE said that information obtained from visual and field screening verification during trenching for the County’s sewer infrastructure will be included as necessary in the PSP investigation. DOE noted that radiological surveys have been implemented and characterization of waste for radiological constituents has occurred. The letter states that spoils from the original trench that was excavated in February have been returned to the original trench and that remaining spoils piles have been placed on Visqueen, covered in plastic, are being managed pursuant to a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan and await characterization for hazardous constituents.
“Air monitoring activities are on-going and the site continues to be maintained in a safe and stable configuration while protecting public health and the environment,” the DOE letter says. It indicates that EM-LA has been vetting a $10 million proposal for site characterization work that will comply with the 2016 Consent Order and will be performed by legacy waste cleanup contractor N3B. It is expected that the task order for N3B will be issued by the end of July, that a schedule for remediation will be available in September and that the N3B work will begin within six months that.
Both NNSA and EM-LA had been quiet about the DP Road situation in recent weeks and updates to Los Alamos County Council and the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities were given by Los Alamos County Manager Harry Burgess.