Communities For Clean Water ‘Blindsided’ By DOE Appeal Of NMED Conditions For LANL Individual Permit


A regular speaker on the agenda at the required biannual meetings conducted by the Department of Energy Environmental Management Los Alamos Field Office and its cleanup contractor Newport News Nuclear BWXT Los Alamos (N3B) for the Los Alamos National Laboratory Individual Permit was visibly angry at Wednesday’s virtual meeting attended by some 50 people. The Individual Permit authorizes discharge of storm water from Los Alamos National Laboratory sites where historical industrial activities occurred.

Rachel Conn of Communities for Clean Water and deputy director for Amigos Bravos, was on the agenda to give an update on behalf of CCW which is a coalition of organizations whose mission is to ensure that community waters impacted by LANL are kept safe for drinking, agriculture, sacred ceremonies, and a sustainable future. The coalition includes Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, Amigos Bravos, Honor out Pueblo Existence, the New Mexico Acequia Association, Partnership for Earth Spirituality and Tewa Women United.

Under her update, Conn noted that CCW was blindsided by an appeal filed by DOE December 31 on all 10 conditions of the New Mexico Environment Department’s certification of the LANL Storm Water Individual Permit. She said CCW was not informed of the appeal by either LANL or NMED.

“This appeal is an insult to  all the collaborative work that CCW, NMED, and LANL have engaged in over the years,” Conn said.

Conn listed the LANL challenges which included opposing monitoring for PCBs. Specifically LANL is opposing the requirement to use EPA Method 1668C to monitor for PCBs and is insisting that EPA Method 608.3 be used, even though that method cannot detect total PCBs at the state’s water quality standards. 

Conn said LANL also challenged an NMED condition requiring monitoring of PFAS in Sandia Canyon based on the grounds that PFAS are not “toxic pollutants” and that the required monitoring method, EPA Method 537, is not a Part 136 Method. Conn was also concerned that LANL wants to be able to delete more sites from the Individual Permit. Specifically LANL wants to delete sites from the water permit if they have met NMED Consent Order requirement even if they are still violating water quality standards. 

Conn complained that LANL challenged a requirement for regulating adjusted gross alpha (the overall radioactivity of drinking water) claiming that their only source was from source, special nuclear and by-product materials not subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act.  

“NMED in its certification and through all 10 of its associated conditions has asserted its regulatory authority to require LANL to meet the state’s water quality standards. In addition, not content to rest on the legal arguments of its appeals, LANL now seeks relief through the Triennial Review process and has proposed amendments to the state’s water quality standards that would buttress its appeal and take away critical protections not only for LANL’s surface waters but for all surface waters of the state,” Conn said.