Aftermath of the LANL fire remains in the forefront
for Northern New Mexico
about the fire that swept over one third of Los Alamos National
Laboratory (LANL) property continue to mount. The issue over what
was released into the air remains a major concern voiced in ongoing
Santa Fe community meetings. The next major concern for citizens
is what will happen when the rains pour down on the charred mountain-sides,
and whether erosion caused by the fire will unleash toxic and
radiological contaminants into the Rio Grande. Jim Danneskiold,
a lab spokesperson said that so far the emergency teams of hydrologists,
soil scientists and other experts have identified some known dump
sites that might release nuclear and chemical waste into streams
and rivers once the region's torrential summer rains begin in
is surrounded by once heavily forested lands, and built on several
mesas, with steep canyons in between. A group of people, including
representatives from Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, (CCNS)
toured the scorched mountains and canyons up in Los Alamos this
week. As people have been saying, it looks like a bomb was dropped
on the "bomb city." The fire burned uncomfortably close to Area
G, LANL's large nuclear dump-site, also called the "hot-dump"
by workers. This mesa has many nuclear burial sites, but it is
also where numerous 55-gallon drum containers with hazardous nuclear-contaminated
wastes are stored above ground in plastic-domed tents. Trees just
across the street from this dump had burned. The group couldn't
get into Technical Areas, but saw much evidence of the massive
burn from the road.
labs spokeperson, Danneskiold said, "There definitely will be
movement of contaminated sediments off lab property, it's a question
of when, not if, the flood waters come through."
fire that burned Los Alamos inflicted considerably more damage
at the nation's premier nuclear weapons design and development
facility than officials initially acknowledged.
to lab officials, the fire devoured about 40 trailers, sheds,
warehouses and other nonpermanent buildings, caused millions of
dollars in smoke and heat damage to lasers and other sensitive
equipment, and delayed a multitude of secret, defense-related
research and other work. Destroyed also, were several wooden buildings
from the Manhattan Project, including one containing blackboards
still covered with chalk notes used to construct the first atom
has been almost a month since the lab was closed. Thousands of
physicists, engineers and other lab workers have now returned
to the battered facility. But in locations where the fire was
most intense, like, research and explosive-testing sites, these
areas will remain closed for an indefinite period of time.
Los Alamos fire has devoured over 47,650 acres so far, including
parts of the Los Alamos lab, the Santa Fe National Forest, the
San Ildefonso Pueblo and Santa Clara Pueblo. Although the inferno
is now mostly under control, high winds continue to keep fires
going on Santa Clara Pueblo lands.
fire's long-term danger is being discussed at numerous meetings
held by the Burned Area Emergency RehabilitationTeam, called the
BAER team. (pronounced bear) The BAER team, an interagency task
force continues to assess the threat from erosion on the now-barren
hills and canyons surrounding the town of Los Alamos, which adjoins
the lab. Former evergreen laden mountains around the town now
have only scorched tree trunks on them.
Palmrose, a spokesman for the BAER team, said that computer models
project erosion "that could be 100 times normal." He said the
challenge was so immense that they are considering damming canyons
or building large sediment pools.
and a plane have started aerial reseeding of severely burned areas
with native species of grass, but area citizens are concerned
that officials are moving too slowly to clear up the toxic contaminants
which are known to be in hundreds of sites around the lab and
in the canyons where many hazardous contaminants were just dumped
in the early years of LANL.
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