Final Community Radiation Monitoring Group Meeting Held - Will Transition to New Format

March 11, 2011

The final meeting of the Community Radiation Monitoring Group was held on Wednesday, March 9th at Northern New Mexico College after forming 17 years ago. Later this spring, the Group will transition to meeting under the direction of the New Mexico Community Foundation.

The decision to end the Group was made by Tom Skibitski, Chief of the New Mexico Environment Department Oversight Bureau for the Department of Energy sites in New Mexico, which includes Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).

In 1994, the Group began meeting to address community concerns about radioactive emissions from LANL and the lack of timely environmental monitoring information. In response, the Environment Department, in collaboration with LANL, established a community-based radiation monitoring initiative in which five radiation monitors were installed in selected communities surrounding LANL. Attendance at the monthly meetings has included representatives from the Environment Department, LANL, the Department of Energy, surrounding Pueblos, non-governmental organizations, federal and state regulatory agencies, and individuals.

The Community Radiation Monitoring Group has provided critical reviews of the LANL environmental program, including permits allowing air emissions and evaluation of pollution prevention and reduction plans. Successful examples include encouraging LANL to install a new asphalt plant, which reduced emissions, and to modify some cooling towers, which resulted in a cleaner discharge. Both projects were more energy efficient than the old systems.

In the last few years the Group's focus has been on the need for enhanced air monitoring in order to protect workers and the public from the cleanup activities at the Material Disposal Area B, a Manhattan-era dump located on DP Road, across the street from the Los Alamos Monitor newspaper offices. LANL and the Environment Department responded by setting up additional air monitoring stations and collecting more samples. and

Since 2003, the Community Foundation has been the manager of the RACER database, an on-line database that allows communities to monitor environmental pollution from LANL. The Foundation has hosted public meetings that "encourage public attention and participation in issues affecting the communities that surround LANL." It plans to hold facilitated monthly meetings, beginning later this spring. The meetings will address environmental media, including air, water, soil, food, and biota.

Marian Naranjo, of Honor Our Pueblo Existence, said after the meeting, "This was a very unique forum in that many long term relationships were made. We are grateful for the work of the Oversight Bureau to keep the monthly meetings going, setting them up and facilitating not only the flow of the meetings but our concerns. As it was stated in the meeting, 'Transition is difficult for some.' We look forward to the new endeavors with those whom we made relations with and the new folks that will be invited to the table."

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