The state Environment Department has fined the U.S. Department of Energy $304,000 over missed deadlines at Los Alamos National Laboratory in documenting waste shipments, a problem state officials said was part of a longtime pattern of delayed reporting.
The agency cited the Energy Department, the lab and the lab’s contracted operator, Triad National Security LLC, for eight violations dating back to 2017 — in most cases for being a year or more late in recording deliveries of mixed waste.
All violations occurred under former Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, who had pressed for more lax waste management during her tenure. They also occurred under a previous lab operator, Los Alamos National Security LLC. Triad took over management of the lab in November 2018.
“This has been a recurring issue that had not been addressed by the past administration,” said Maddy Hayden, a spokeswoman for the Environment Department, explaining why the lab was being cited now for the older violations.
Under state Environment Secretary James Kenney, the agency wants to be clear on its expectations for compliance and accountability going forward, Hayden said.
In a letter earlier this month, Stephanie Stringer, the department’s director of resource protection, said the lab repeatedly violated the 1995 Federal Facility Compliance Order by failing to provide required information within 45 days after waste was shipped.
In one violation, the required documentation was 392 working days past due, the letter said.
Toni Chiri, a spokeswoman for the National Nuclear Security Administration, said the state’s citation is based on “administrative discrepancies that were identified, self-reported and corrected by LANL.”
“These containers have been shipped to off-site disposal sites in a safe and compliant manner,” Chiri said. “There was no threat to public health or the environment.”
Hayden said there are procedures that allow for challenging the citation. It was unknown whether the nuclear security administration would challenge the fine imposed.
Among the violations were the following incidents:
- Information on seven waste containers delivered March 23, 2018, to a disposal site went 395 days past due. Three days later, information on a six-container shipment wasn’t provided for 392 working days.
- A waste container shipped in April 2018 wasn’t properly recorded for 372 working days.
Information on a shipped waste container in May 2018 went 360 working days past due.
Stringer said these infractions were similar to three that occurred in 2011, 2014 and 2015, showing a long-term pattern.
Kenney could modify, suspend or revoke the Energy Department’s hazardous waste permit, she said, and also could deny a future application due to a history of noncompliance or disregard of environmental laws.
Chiri said the lab will continue to work with the state to meet all regulatory requirements for waste storage and shipments.