Middle DP Road Site
This webpage provides updates on the investigation the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Environmental Management Los Alamos Field Office is conducting of land parcels along DP Road where historical materials from Los Alamos National Laboratory were found in 2020. The purpose of the investigation is to gain confidence that radioactively contaminated debris will not be encountered during future development of the land parcels owned by Los Alamos County.
See the Project Updates section for the latest reports from the field. See the Background section for a description of the issue and previous work completed.
September 27, 2023
Additional confirmatory sampling at the Middle DP Road Site has been completed and data validated confirming that contamination removal and cleanup is complete. Workers are now finishing field work, which includes removal of a Los Alamos County debris pile, demobilizing excavation equipment and completing environmental restoration activities. Field work is expected to be completed in the next few weeks. Shipments of low-level radiological waste continue to an off-site disposal facility. The Solid Waste Management Unit Assessment Report is being prepared.
February 9, 2023
On January 30, 2023, an isolated piece of radioactive material was detected at the Middle DP Road (MDPR) site. Excavation was occurring to remove soil at the northernmost edge of the site, which was previously identified through extent sampling as having elevated levels of heavy metals, such as copper and lead. N3B immediately stopped work and called radiological control technicians to evaluate the waste and secure it on-site.
The material was placed in the proper waste container, transported to Technical Area 21, and is being stored until pending final disposition. N3B surveyed the area for radiological activity, none was found, and excavation continues per the Extent Sampling Work Plan and Radiological Work Permit. The safety of the workforce, the public and the environment remain DOE’s top priority.
November 21, 2022
Following additional confirmation soil sampling at the Middle DP Road (MDPR) site, the extent of soil contamination has been determined for four of the five areas where contaminated debris was initially excavated. N3B is determining whether additional remediation is needed at two of those sites. At the fifth site, N3B continues to investigate the extent of contamination from elevated levels of metals. N3B will remediate as necessary in that location. Radiologically contaminated soil has been excavated from all sites.
N3B continues shipping waste from the MDPR site for off-site disposal and crews are conducting site restoration where investigations and remediation have concluded. Restoration includes the replacement of storm water controls, in addition to seeding to maintain vegetation growth.
September 27, 2022
Additional sampling results at the Middle DP Road site continue to be evaluated and off-site shipment of low-level radiological waste continues, with roughly one-third of waste containers having been shipped off-site to a permanent disposal facility.
July 26, 2022
Sampling results from June 2022 are being evaluated to determine if any remaining soil exceeds residential screening levels. Upon determining extent, if environmental professionals find any areas above residential screening levels, those areas will be excavated and backfilled. The Solid Waste Management Area Assessment Report will be finalized once final excavations are completed. Shipments of low-level radiological waste continue twice per week to an off-site disposal facility.
June 20, 2022
N3B recently completed additional confirmation sampling at the Middle DP Road site (MDPR) to confirm areas of excavated debris. Sample results, which come from a third-party analytical laboratory, will guide whether additional cleanup is necessary.
On June 9, 2022, N3B began shipping low-level radioactive waste generated from the MDPR site to an off-site facility for permanent disposal. A total of 4,457 cubic yards of contaminated soil and debris will be safely shipped to an off-site licensed disposal facility.
April 26, 2022
Extent and confirmation sampling of the excavated areas at the Middle DP Road site continue. In addition, N3B began excavation of contaminated soil where confirmation samples showed elevated metals above residential screening levels. Waste management activities also continue for facilitation of off-site shipment of contaminated soil.
March 28, 2022
Recent confirmation sample results from a few locations along the edge and bottom of specific excavation areas at the Middle DP Road site indicated radiological levels above residential screening levels. N3B is conducting additional soil sampling to determine the nature and extent of contamination in the areas identified. The additional sampling will guide further cleanup efforts. Once additional sampling and excavations are complete, N3B will complete the Solid Waste Management Unit Assessment Report and submit it to the New Mexico Environment Department for review and approval.
February 22, 2022
N3B completed confirmation sample collection at the Middle DP Road Site in early February 2022. Based on the results, additional samples and soil excavation may be required. Once all data has been received and assessed, additional sampling and soil removal will be planned and implemented if necessary.
January 26, 2022
Samples continue being collected at the Middle DP Road Site to confirm no additional soil and debris removal is necessary at the site. The outcome is determined by comparison of sample results from an off-site analytical laboratory; samples are analyzed against soil screening levels and risk analyses. Areas of excavation have been backfilled to provide additional worker safety while collecting the samples. Off-site shipment of contaminated debris and soil continues.
December 16, 2021
N3B crews continue to backfill locations that had been excavated at the Middle DP Road site. At locations that have already been backfilled, crews are collecting soil samples to confirm that both depth and lateral extent of contamination was addressed and that those sites meet residential use criteria. The sites have been backfilled prior to sample collection to provide added worker safety while collecting the samples.
November 15, 2021
EM-LA and N3B have completed the investigation and removal of radiologically contaminated soil and debris found in February 2020 at Middle DP Road. Since beginning work on the project in August 2020, 3,323 cubic yards of contaminated materials have been excavated — the equivalent of more than 12,202 55-gallon drums. Crews are now filling in the excavation sites and each site will then undergo additional sampling in order to confirm the site is safe for residential use. An assessment report will be submitted to the New Mexico Environment Department upon completion of the fieldwork.
October 19, 2021
As of October 19, investigation activities at Middle DP Road (MDPR) are 95 percent complete, with 118 of the 124 planned sites investigated and remediated. Contaminated soil and debris from three of the four areas at MDPR where crews have focused their efforts the past two months have been excavated and safely packaged for disposal at an off-site facility. In total, about 3,200 cubic yards of low-level radioactive debris and soil have been excavated and packaged for such disposal — the equivalent of nearly 16,900 55-gallon drums.
October 5, 2021
During the week of September 27, crews continued excavation of contaminated soil and debris from two areas at the Middle DP Road (MDPR) site. To date, crews have excavated 2,759 cubic yards of low-level radioactive waste for off-site disposal from MDPR — the equivalent of nearly 11,150 55-gallon drums.
September 23, 2021
During the week of September 13, crews continued to excavate debris and soil from two areas at the Middle DP Road (MDPR) site. As a conservative measure, non-contaminated debris and associated soil were packaged with newly found contaminated debris. To date, 2,382 cubic yards of low-level radioactive waste — the equivalent of about 9,621 55-gallon drums — has been excavated from MDPR and safely packaged for off-site disposal.
September 3, 2021
As of September 2, excavation of soil and buried debris at the Middle DP Road (MDPR) site continues as crews determine the extent of a layer of buried debris. Once removed, the debris and associated soil are screened for radiological activity and packaged accordingly. To date, N3B has excavated and safely packaged for disposal more than 1,500 cubic yards of low-level radioactive waste from the MDPR site — the equivalent of about 6,000 drums.
August 17, 2021
Crews continue to make significant progress at the Middle DP Road (MDPR) site. Contaminated materials and other debris are being found about seven to eight feet below ground surface, as anticipated. Once materials are excavated, they continue to be packaged into secure containers for characterization in order to determine the appropriate off-site disposal facility. As of August 10, N3B had excavated and packaged for disposal 588 cubic yards of low-level radioactive waste from the MDPR site and investigation activities had been completed at 106 of the 124 planned sites. Click here for a status map of those investigation activities.
August 4, 2021
On July 26, N3B began shipping excavated soil from the Middle DP Road site. The soil will be used to support the future closure of an approved waste disposal site at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The soil meets all regulatory standards for this purpose and advances additional legacy environmental cleanup projects. As of July 27, N3B has completed 85 percent of planned assessment activities at the Middle DP Road site.
July 12, 2021
On July 8, 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 resumed at MDPR shortly thereafter while prioritizing the safety of N3B’s workforce, the environment, and the surrounding community.
June 30, 2021
N3B has completed 83 percent of planned assessment activities at the MDPR site as of June 26 and plans to start excavating in the next two weeks. N3B is packaging radiologically contaminated materials that have already been found as well as the excavated soil as it is removed from the excavation sites. The soil and contaminated material will be sampled for proper waste disposition. Confirmation sampling of the surrounding soil will continue to occur to determine if additional excavation is necessary.
June 23, 2021
As of June 17, investigation activities have been completed at 100 of 124 planned sites at the Middle DP Road Site. One site contained radiologically contaminated material that was removed, and post-cleanup sampling is pending. Investigation is underway at three other sites near where contamination was discovered in 2020. N3B expects to begin excavation at those sites in the next week with work to continue at the remaining sites in the near future. Click the “View Map” button to download a status map of pothole investigations at the MDPR Site.
June 10, 2021
N3B has completed shipment of 25 containers of low-level radioactive waste originating from the Middle DP Road (MDPR) site to an off-site disposal facility for permanent disposal. Each container consists of soil removed from the MDPR site during 2020.
May 20, 2021
On May 18, Troy Thomson, Environmental Remediation acting program manager for N3B, provided an update on Middle DP Road (MDPR) activities to the Los Alamos County Council. The update included a status on the investigation of 124 potholes, which is nearly 60 percent complete, as of May 17. Click the “Read More” button to download a status map of pothole investigations at the MDPR Site.
May 14, 2021
N3B has completed excavating nearly 70 percent of the planned gridded pothole locations. Buried radiologically contaminated debris was located in one of the pothole locations near a known contaminated area and will be investigated further.
April 29, 2021
Work continued this week investigating the Middle DP Road (MDPR) site. About 30 percent of the planned sampling locations have been investigated and no contaminated debris has been discovered. Workers also completed marking all sampling locations and completed a housekeeping sweep of the MDPR site.
April 28, 2021
This week, N3B began shipping containers of low level radioactive waste originating from the Middle DP Road (MDPR) site to the Waste Control Specialists (WCS) site in Texas for permanent disposal. Each container consists of about 16 cubic yards of soil removed from the MDPR site during the 2020 investigation and installation of utilities.
April 15, 2021
Field work began at the Middle DP Road (MDPR) Site on April 15. To help gain confidence that radioactively contaminated debris will not be encountered during future development, N3B will investigate about 124 sites. Investigation activities will include excavation, cleanup and sampling. Click “Read More” to view a map of the MDPR Site.
April 9, 2021
Beginning the week of April 12, the Los Alamos residents should expect to see increased truck traffic as N3B begins an environmental investigation of two land parcels on the south side of DP Road.
April 5, 2021
The New Mexico Environment Department has approved the work plan for investigating the Middle DP Road (MDPR) Site. The work plan, Solid Waste Management Unit Assessment Work Plan for Middle DP Road Site, Revision 1, lays out the work to be done at MDPR, as well as background and history.
The property where the sampling work is being conducted was part of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Technical Area 21 (TA-21), which was used decades ago for the production and purification of plutonium and polonium. The investigation is focusing on portions of two land parcels on the south side of DP Road: A-16-a and the adjacent A-8-a, both of which are now owned by Los Alamos County (LAC). The area of investigation is known as the Middle DP Road Site.
In early 2020, excavation work for a new LAC sewer line unearthed unexpected radiologically contaminated materials of LANL origin close to the western boundary of land parcel A-16-a. Later in 2020, additional contaminated materials were found on A-16-a and the adjacent land parcel A-8-a. Subsequent to each discovery, the excavation sites were placed in a safe configuration and samples of the contaminated debris were removed from the site and analyzed.
Samples of debris showed radiological contamination adhered to the debris with little to no transfer to the surrounding soils. The contamination was identified as very early Manhattan Project uranium and plutonium.
In August 2020, N3B conducted trench work on the eastern portion of the adjacent land parcel A-8-b, which is owned by Bethel Corporation. No contaminated debris or debris of LANL origin was found during the trench work. To gain further confidence that radioactively contaminated debris would not be encountered during future development of the land parcel and out of an abundance of caution, N3B conducted 16 additional localized excavations across A-8-b in December 2020. No contaminated debris or debris of LANL origin was found.
The results from the trenching effort and localized excavations on A-8-b and the uncommon nature of the plutonium and uranium contamination debris of LANL origin found on the Middle DP Road Site have helped guide the investigation approach that is being used.
The purpose of the investigation of the Middle DP Road Site is to determine the extent of possible additional contamination on these two land parcels and to remove the contamination that has already been discovered. Project work includes air monitoring, site inspections, investigation implementation, soil and debris sampling, contaminated debris removal, where possible, waste disposition, reporting, and stakeholder interaction.
The investigation field work on the Middle DP Road Site started on April 15, 2021, and is expected to conclude in late fall 2021.
Middle DP Road Site Photo & Map Gallery
The photos and maps below show work being done by N3B along DP Road.
Frequently Asked Questions
When and where along DP Road was contamination discovered?
In February 2020, a contractor conducting work along DP Road on land that formerly was part of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) found unexpected material. The material was analyzed and determined to have originated during the Manhattan Project Era. Out of an abundance of caution, and in partnership with Los Alamos County, the Department of Energy (DOE) undertook excavation work along DP Road. Contaminated materials were found on two land parcels: A-16-a and A-8-a. The materials were discovered about 200-400 feet south of DP Road, across from the western most portion of the existing businesses and on lands further to the west. See this map of the area.
What was found on these parcels? Did DOE dispose of the materials?
Radiologically contaminated materials of LANL origin that were found included metal items, debris and glass. These contaminated materials were packaged and safely shipped off-site for proper disposal. In another excavation, a yellow soil-like substance was uncovered that was determined to be oxidized processed uranium, which was placed in a safe configuration until a proper investigation was implemented. The excavation sites were fenced off, and signs marking the presence of radioactive materials were posted.
Why is DOE conducting field work on DP Road? When will the work start?
As noted above, in 2020, contaminated materials of LANL origin were found on two land parcels along DP Road. DOE is conducting potholing and associated sampling on the two land parcels to gain confidence that radioactively contaminated debris will not be encountered during future development on both parcels. The safety of the community and the environment are of the utmost importance.
The field work is scheduled to be begin in April 2021, and last several months.
What will DOE do if more contamination is found?
If any contaminated materials are found, DOE will determine nature and extent and remove. It also will sample the excavations to verify no contamination remains. Depending on the extent of contamination, DOE will determine if any remediation is necessary. All work will be conducted safely to protect workers, neighboring businesses and the public.
Will this work affect businesses along DP Road?
We are working with the local developer, DP Road businesses and LAC to minimize impacts to access. We expect a slight increase in truck traffic, but nothing that would impact access to local businesses.
Was any contamination found where housing is being developed?
No. Following the discovery of materials on parcels A-8-a and A-16-a, DOE sampled the adjacent land parcel A-8-b, site of a future housing development. The intent was to gain further confidence that contaminated debris would not be encountered during development activities. The sampling on A-8-b was completed in December 2020 and no contaminated materials were found. Development on the land parcel began.
Is DOE coordinating this activity with Los Alamos County? How about with the New Mexico Environment Department?
Yes. DOE is working with Los Alamos County and the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) to ensure the fieldwork is done in a safe, effective, timely, and compliant manner. The assessment work plan that DOE is using on the two land parcels was reviewed and approved by NMED. DOE has provided regular updates to Los Alamos County on field work related to DP Road and will continue to do so. DOE also shares monitoring data with Los Alamos County as appropriate.
How long will it take DOE to clean it up?
Sampling on the land parcels A-8-a and A-16-a is expected to take several months. The results of the field work will determine what additional activities may be required and how long they will take.
How do we know that this additional screening will find all possible contamination on DP Road?
The assessment work plan approach has been statistically designed to maximize the likelihood that contaminated materials, if present, will be found.