LOS ALAMOS, N.M. — A campaign to clean up several sites with elevated levels of soil contamination at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) culminated this year, marking the first cleanup campaign to be completed under the 2016 Compliance Order on Consent (Consent Order).
Newport News Nuclear BWXT Los Alamos (N3B) remediated four of the sites as the prime contractor in charge of LANL’s legacy cleanup for DOE’s Environmental Management Los Alamos Field Office. The Consent Order is the regulatory agreement between the Department of Energy (DOE) and the New Mexico Environment Department that guides cleanup of hazardous waste released at LANL before 1999, which includes the Manhattan Project and Cold War eras.
The sites, known as Solid Waste Management Units, or SWMUs, were areas on LANL property where historical LANL processes led to the release of contamination into the environment that exceeded state standards. The sites were part of a campaign donned the Known Cleanup Sites Campaign.
“Cleanup of these sites ultimately protects human health by eliminating the likelihood that contamination will reach the water system through storm water runoff or groundwater infiltration,” said Brenda Bowlby, head of N3B’s soil remediation program. “Remediation also protects the health of the area’s unique ecological species. We’re extremely happy to have these sites taken care of.”
The four sites remediated were located in Upper Mortandad, Upper Cañada del Buey and Threemile canyons.
One site was the area where treated effluent from LANL’s Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility was released. Another site included surface contamination associated with tests performed in an underground shaft to assess the absorption ability of tuff during an underground explosion. Another location was the disposal area linked to a now-inactive firing site.
In total, N3B excavated 1,793 cubic yards of contaminated soil and debris. Cleanup crews then packaged the material and shipped it to an offsite disposal facility in Clive, Utah. Crews also brought in clean soil as backfill.
In addition to the Known Cleanup Sites campaign, N3B is tasked with 16 other campaigns under the Consent Order, which are listed in Appendix C of the agreement. The campaigns receive prioritization according to potential risk posed to human health and the environment. Ten Consent Order campaigns are currently underway.
N3B cleanup crews load a waste bag full of contaminated material from a site in Threemile Canyon in preparation for shipment to an offsite disposal facility.