BY MAIRE O’NEILL
The senior federal official responsible for managing the legacy waste cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Environmental Management Manager Michael Mikolanis expects work on cleanup at the Middle DP Road Site to be completed no later than February 2023. He told Los Alamos County Councilors last week that New Mexico Environment Department will then have 120 days to review and comment and if they do, EM-LA will have 90 days to respond and resubmit their report at which time it is anticipated that NMED will approve the work that has been done.
Mikolanis noted that the “potholing” being conducted last year on the site finished up in January. While analyzing the soil samples additional metals were detected that needed additional remediation in order to give the County a clean transfer of the land, taking it back to the residential levels the Department of Energy committed to in the beginning, he said,
“We began the additional extent of condition sampling and the data analysis that comes along with that in April. It is anticipated that we will get the results of that back in July. We have had some of the results come back which initiated some additional investigation around where we did the extent of conditions sampling and we began that work in June. We’re doing as much of this work as we can parallel with the last of the analysis coming in the July time frame. We anticipate finishing any additional investigation and complete the work by the end of August,” Mikolanis said. “After that the Department has to take two vertical samples that are required by DOE directives.”
He noted that it will take about two months to get the sample results back and at that point EM-LA has made a commitment to NMED that six months after the field work is finished, they will submit the report that will close out the project.
“The County Manager has stressed how important it is to get the property back and turn it over to the developers. Barring any new information coming up, I anticipate the completion date for that work would be February 2023,” Mikolanis said.
N3B’s Program Manager for Environmental Remediation Troy Thomsen note showed maps of the areas on DP Road where potholing has been conducted to look for location where there may be debris associated with Laboratory activities whether they are radiological or not. He said earlier in January crews were going out to the DP Road site and containerizing some soil piles that were remaining there from construction activities and then proceeded into geophysical and other locating methods for anomalies that may be at the site wherever they would see disturbances. He said they also deployed electromagnetic techniques that could look for “underground pipe and other stuff like that”.
Thomsen said some areas were found where there may have been some fence buried. If abandoned utilities were found, N3B would have called the County and have them come out and verify that they were abandoned. He said this gave the County the opportunity to know where that utility was and locate it with GPS for mapping for future reference.
More than 120 potholes were investigated to locate and excavate any Laboratory debris found, all the time conducting radiological surveys to guide them in how to complete those excavations to make sure they had high confidence that they located the material they were after.
Thomsen showed another map of work completed from October 2021 to present that showed where sampling was being conducted. He said those areas have been backfilled but N3B wanted to go back in and do some confirmatory sampling, send if off to an analytical laboratory to do the analytical chemistry on it and evaluate those results to make sure they were below residential for soil screening levels.
Thomsen said there were some areas around the new lift station the County installed that needed some additional work.
“If we identify an area that is above the soil screening levels we’ll go down another five feet, take another sample and determine if we need to excavate there and if that sample is still elevated, we’ll go another five feet and let the data drive us for what is the area we’re going to have to excavate to complete. Most of the samples that have been taken are at a three or four foot level, 9-10 foot level and we’ll continue on as we go to depth,” Thomsen said.
He noted that there is more excavation going on in tract A-16a where N3B has taken samples from stock piles left from previous activities by other contractors. The top layer was over-excavated as they removed those soils to make sure there was nothing residual from the piles, he said.
“It is still an active investigation. We’ll let the data drive when we have completed the work on the Middle DP Road Site,” Thomsen said.
Mikolanis said a lot of work has been done at the site but there is still some work to go. He noted that he meets with the County Manager monthly along with his NNSA peer Ted Wyka to keep the County apprised of the situation.
He noted that in the areas that have been excavated, some glass debris has been found as well as some metal. At times the glass debris was reagent containers. Newspaper clippings from the 40s and 50s and some photo negatives have been discovered. Some mercury, lead and copper have also been found.