Map showing Middle DP Road Site. Courtesy N3B
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Los Alamos County is reporting that there was a new finding Thursday during pothole excavation being conducted at the Middle Road Site by Los Alamos National Laboratory legacy cleanup contractor N3B. In an email sent late Friday afternoon to local media, County Public Information Officer Julie Habiger sent the following statement attributed to Department of Energy Environmental Management (EM):
“On July 8, the DOE contractor, N3B, discovered an intact 500-milliliter amber glass bottle containing liquid during pothole excavation at the Middle DP Road Site. As part of required procedures, N3B contacted the Emergency Operations Support Center (EOSC). Out of an abundance of caution, the EOSC instructed N3B to engage the Los Alamos County Fire Department for HazMat support and assistance. The Los Alamos County Fire Department placed the bottle in a secure drum and secured it at an onsite location, while it awaits waste characterization sampling.
“Work has now resumed on the Middle DP Road Site. The safety of our workforce, the environment, and the surrounding community remains our highest priority as we continue to adhere to strict safety procedures. We will continue to provide up-to-date information to our local stakeholders.”
It was not initially clear whether the DOE statement came from DOE/EM HQ in Washington, DC or the DOE-EM Los Alamos Field Office. In recent months, most media questions are forwarded to HQ for approval. On Friday evening, Stephen Hoffman, EM-LA Deputy Manager said in an email that Los Alamos County requested a statement from EM-LA.
“The issued statement is from EM-LA, and as with all DOE-EM communications, was reviewed and approved by DOE-EM HQ. As part of the procedure with the Los Alamos County Haz Mat team to secure the debris, a joint statement was issued,” Hoffman said.
Habiger’s email also included the following statement from Los Alamos County Public Works Director Anne Laurent who was filling in for Acting County Manager Steve Lynne:
“I appreciate the quick response by the Fire Department’s Haz Mat team yesterday. At this time, we do not believe that the liquid found poses a health or safety concern. It has been placed in a secure container for further examination. More information will be made available when known.”
As of June 17, N3B indicated that “investigation activities”, in the form of digging potholes, had been completed at 100 of 124 planned sites at the Middle DP Road Site. At that time it was noted that one site contained radiologically contaminated material that was removed and that post-cleanup sampling was pending. N3B noted that Investigation is underway at three other sites near where contamination was discovered in 2020. emaining sites in the near future. Click on the following link to see a status map of pothole investigations at the MDPR Site.
The location of the sampling work is on land that was formerly part of LANL and was transferred by DOE to Los Alamos County. The investigation focuses on two land parcels on the south side of DP Road: A-16-a and the adjacent A-8-a. In February 2020, during excavation work contracted by the County for a new sewer line for a new housing development, radiologically contaminated materials were unearthed. Two more discoveries of contaminated debris occurred later in 2020.
DOE-EM and N3B are working to determine the extent of additional contamination on the Middle DP Road Site under a Preliminary Screening Plan approved by the New Mexico Environment Department.