Department of Energy officials recently notified the New Mexico Environment Department that more radioactive waste was found on DP Road on May 18, in addition to radioactive waste that was discovered in February in the same general area.
The new waste was discovered 80 feet south of a parcel of land located approximately halfway down DP Road on the right side, heading eastbound. The land the new waste was discovered on was transferred from the Department of Energy to Los Alamos County in 2018.
Samples collected by Triad National Security identified the waste as containing Uranium 234 and Uranium 238. Officials aren’t sure of the level of radioactivity as the material is still being tested by Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The discovery of the waste was part of an initial National Nuclear Security Administration investigation started in February, when a county subcontractor discovered radioactive waste while digging a ditch for a sewage pipe Feb. 14. The pipe was for two housing projects currently being built on DP Road. The properties, one a senior housing development and the other for low income housing are being built by the same developer, Bethel Development Corporation. The discovery of the waste has not stopped construction to either project, which are located directly across the road from each other on DP Road.
Recently LANL received the testing results of the waste found in February. According to tests performed by a DOE subcontractor, four items were tested from the Feb. 14 discovery. Two of the items tested were within the acceptable environmental limits for lead, mercury, barium cadmium and chromium. Two of the items however tested seven times higher than the acceptable environmental limits for lead.
The New Mexico Environment Department said Wednesday the DOE has not yet presented to the NMED a plan for further monitoring and remediation. An NMED spokesperson also said once the DOE submits the plan, it will consider making it a part of the 2016 consent order between the DOE, the NNSA, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the NMED. The NMED oversees the consent order, which includes target dates of when the DOE is supposed to complete cleanup projects approved and overseen by the NMED.
“NMED continues to closely monitor this situation. On April 7, 2020, NMED directed the DOE to develop and implement a preliminary screening plan to identify the presence or absence of hazardous constituents above residential screening levels,” an NMED spokesperson said. “On April 16, the DOE responded that it intends to complete this task as soon as practicable; however, to date DOE has not provided a specific timeframe for when this screening will be completed. The results of the preliminary screening will determine if the site – including the newly discovered materials – should be regulated as part of the 2016 Consent Order. We expect the DOE to conduct a full investigation and disclose data, information and clean-up activities to us and the public.”