Grande Fire Still Burning Underground on LANL Property
Cerro Grande Fire at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) has
never been completely suppressed at one of the Material Disposal
Areas (or MDA) which is near Technical Area 16 (or TA-16). MDA
R is an old dump-site used during and after World War II. TA-16
is located in the southwestern corner of LANL property near Bandelier
National Monument and the Santa Fe National Forest.
to Steve Yanicak, a scientist with the New Mexico Environment
Department (NMED) DOE Oversight Bureau, there is no record of
what was buried there. Yanicak believes MDA R is most likely filled
with old tree stumps and old WWII buildings that were knocked
down and burned. What didn't burn, was dumped at the MDA R site.
Some state environment officials and activists say it probably
also has high explosives, depleted uranium, barium, beryllium
and heavy metals from the early days of the Manhattan project.
One of Yanicak's concerns is that the MDA R dump is on the edge
of a mesa. With this ongoing fire, the dump site is likely to
collapse, increasing the already high erosion potential of the
site to directly impact the Cañon de Vallé, which flows into Water
Canyon, which eventually washes into the Rio Grande.
to Lee McAtee, the lab's deputy director for Environment, Safety
and Health, it is not known how deep the fire is burning. McAtee
says there is no apparent threat to the public, although the fire
does threaten lab workers in the area.
Lewis, director for the state Environment Department's Groundwater
Bureau said that because of explosives and possible radioactivity,
workers have to stay a safe distance from the dump, so work is
being done remotely by robot. Lab and state environment officials
are not sure if they can douse the dump area with water for fear
that contaminants could leach into the groundwater of the canyon.
Friday, June 2nd, the workers at S-Site, which is on the west
side of TA-16, and also the place which was the most heavily damaged
by fire, were evacuated for fear of mudslides. S-Site has many
high-explosive burning sites.
of June 8th, both the New Mexico DOE Oversight Bureau and the
federal Environmental Protection Agency (or EPA) were denied access
to LANL tech areas..
waste dump that is burning is located near the 260 Building, a
high-explosives facility where for over 50 years scientists dumped
untreated wastewater tainted with high explosives into the canyon
below. According to the NMED's Greg Lewis, the rivulet that goes
from the 260 Building past the waste dump into the canyon reportedly
contains 30 percent explosives in the dirt. Presently no one knows
or will say whether the area exploded in Los Alamos fire. The
EPA considers high explosives, which have contaminated parts of
TA-16 and the burning dump to be a possible carcinogen.
is concerned about the firing sites in S-Site that have depleted
uranium debris, including fine grained depleted uranium in the
soil, that could have been released into the air. According to
Yanicak, LANL's Technical Area building evacuations from last
week are due to health and safety concerns regarding the potential
of heavy mudflows during storm events. Most likely, roads, such
as State Road 501, and tech areas close to the foothills, could
be affected by potential mudflows. In all likelihood, when the
monsoons hit this summer, citizens could see some significant
mud and debris flows coming down into the Los Alamos townsite
and Laboratory areas from the fire-impacted canyons.
Friday, June 2 when it rained, mudflows moved down Los Alamos
Canyon and Pueblo Canyon. The Oversight Bureau took samples of
the gooey black mud and expects results in about a month. In Los
Alamos Canyon the blackened mud from the up-canyon burn areas
flowed all the way to the Rio Grande.
Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS) is asking for immediate access
for the State Environment Department and the EPA to all the Technical
Area sites at LANL. CCNS is also demanding an Independent Citizens
Monitoring Panel of Experts to oversee health and the environmental
issues that will continue to affect Northern New Mexico.
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