Monsoon Season Rains Come Down LANL's Canyons

CCNS invites the public to participate in a Conference on the Fire that Ravaged Los Alamos National Laboratory Property, and to Discuss the Aftermath of the Fire on New Mexico's Watershed

*In the early decades of nuclear bomb production at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), liquid and solid wastes from nuclear weapons manufacturing was dumped over the mesas into the canyons below. Today there's a race against time now that the monsoon season has begun. Trying to stop the radioactive contaminates created at LANL from going onto neighboring Tribal Nation lands and into our state's largest river, the Rio Grande is an enormous project.

Workers began digging up truckloads of the dirt in Los Alamos Canyon where an old decommissioned reactor stands. This reactor leaked for more years than anyone knows, contaminating the area around it. This is where the dirt is being moved from and shipped to a waste storage site at LANL's Technical Area-54 (or TA-54) also known as Area G. The estimated 700 cubic meters of dirt is contaminated with cesium-137, strontium-90 and plutonium. Several of the canyons on lab property are contaminated with these radioactive contaminants as well as toxic chemicals.

On Thursday, June 28th the monsoons hit the lab for only an hour and heavy water flows resulted in the closure of State Road 501 from the base of the ski hill road to State Road 4 by TA-16. The runoff came down a canyon in a three to four foot deep by 30 feet wide flow of water that went over the road by the Water Canyon Watershed. Rainwater was also reported flowing down Pajarito Canyon above TA-18 and overflowed the recently created 10 foot berm. TA-18 is a nuclear-weapons criticality area where scientists perform experiments with radioactive materials, and also perform sub-critical nuclear tests.

*In response to the potential threat to our watershed, on Saturday, July 8, the first of two public Conferences will be held at the Eldorado Hotel in Santa Fe with national, local, and Pueblo experts. The first conference; Fire, Water and the Aftermath: The Cerro Grande Fire and Its Effect On the Rio Grande Watershed, will allow community members to hear a comprehensive view of the situation New Mexico may be faced with now that the rains have started to wash down the canyons.

The Rio Grande/Rio Bravo is the lifeblood of New Mexico, southern Texas and northern Mexico, providing water for 10 million people. Because of the Cerro Grande fire, a large forested area has been denuded and there is concern about rains, erosion and runoff of toxic materials from LANL to the Rio Grande /Rio Bravo Watershed.

The purpose of the Conference is to broaden public awareness about the environmental and health risks that may result from runoff and to encourage independent oversight of LANL's measures toward protecting New Mexico's largest watershed. It is our opportunity to develop a proclamation, from the people to our elected officials, so greater accountability and information can become available to all.

This Conference is being sponsored by Concerned Citizen for Nuclear Safety (CCNS) and Robert Alvarez of the Nuclear Policy Project. The first Conference will be held at the Eldorado Hotel Ballroom from 9am to 6pm, Saturday, July 8th. Conference participants will include representatives of the State of New Mexico, the Pueblos, LANL and the University of California, DOE, EPA, watershed and environmental organizations, independent scientific and health experts, farmers, lab workers and community members.

There will be a panel discussion with national and local experts defining the issues, especially as they pertain to the impacts of radioactive and other hazardous contaminants on the Rio Grande Watershed. Community members will have an opportunity to ask questions from panelists. Anna Hansen, Chairperson of the CCNS Board said, "We are looking forward to your participation. This is an extraordinary moment in history to protect our bioregion and learn more about how we can all work together to ensure the safety of our water."

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