“Nuclear Watch New Mexico believes that it is past time that this dangerous contaminant is cleaned up at the source.
Extracted treated groundwater should be pumped or trucked uphill to flush out the remaining 90% of the chromium so that it can be decisively dealt with instead of with only marginally effective “pump and treat” for a few centuries…”
By Jay Coghlan
The real shame is how ineffective Lab cleanup of the hexavalent chromium plume is. First, even after 18 years, LANL and DOE still don’t know the boundaries of the plume, all the while claiming it’s not on San Ildefonso Pueblo Land (maybe LANL should deprioritize expanded nuclear weapons production and focus on that). Second, this is our common “sole source” (EPA special designation) aquifer that is one of the primary sources of drinking water for the cities of Santa Fe, Española, and Los Alamos, eleven Pueblos and all of the Española Basin’s rural areas. Third, hex chromium is the carcinogen made notorious in the popular movie Erin Brockovich. Fourth, it is estimated that 160,000 pounds of chromium were released up until 1972, but only 10% (i.e. ~16,000 pounds) has been recovered through extraction and treatment. When the head of DOE Environmental Management Los Alamos Office was asked where’s the rest of the chromium, Michael Mikolanis demurred and said that he would have to get back on that question.
Nuclear Watch New Mexico believes that it is past time that this dangerous contaminant is cleaned up at the source. Extracted treated groundwater should be pumped or trucked uphill to flush out the remaining 90% of the chromium so that it can be decisively dealt with instead of with only marginally effective “pump and treat” for a few centuries (assuming that any human institution lasts that long). This should be funded as a top priority so that New Mexicans’ precious water resources are permanently protected, instead of the booming nuclear weapons programs at the Lab that will cause yet more contamination and environmental risk.
As a respectful suggestion to San Ildefonso Pueblo leadership, DOE must install a robust system of monitoring wells (instead of injection wells) along the LANL side of the boundary. As Governor Moquino said, “If it’s detected on our land, that changes the whole scope and dynamic of this entire issue,” especially given that the Pueblo is a sovereign nation.
Moreover, it’s virtually certain that hexavalent chromium has crossed the boundary onto Pueblo land. For starters, the plume boundary (which again they don’t know) is only for 50 parts per billion and above. Thus, they are not even mapping 49 parts per billion, which of course they will never find without new quality assured monitoring wells. (The various ways that DOE and LANL have screwed up monitoring wells is a whole other big story).
Cleanup not build up of yet more unneeded nuclear bombs!