.News Update 10/10/08

Santa Fe City Council Considering Accepting LANL Waste at Caja del Rio Landfill

October 10, 2008

The Santa Fe City Council will vote on Wednesday, October 29 on a proposal to accept waste from the North Central Waste Authority and Los Alamos County at the Caja del Rio Landfill.

If approved, Santa Fe would also accept 2,100 tons of waste per year from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), consisting of about 1,130 tons of office and restaurant waste, construction waste and debris. The remainder includes brush, concrete, and metal that is recycled and could possibly come from contaminated sites. For a report by the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Out of Control - On Purpose: DOE's Dispersal of Radioactive Waste into Landfills and Consumer Products, visit www.nirs.org/radwaste/outofcontrol/outofcontrolhtm

On September 17, a committee of the Santa Fe City Council met to discuss the proposal. Los Alamos County officials distributed a Power Point presentation in which they stated that there have been "no detections in LANL waste since installation [of radiation monitors] over 10 years ago." That statement was contradicted by an incident in 2004 when contaminated copper pipe from LANL's linear accelerator was sent to the Los Alamos County Landfill. The radiation monitor at the entrance to the landfill alerted County officials.

As a result, the Santa Fe City Council postponed the vote and sent the proposal back to its Finance and Public Works Committees for another review. The Finance Committee will meet on Monday, October 20 at 5 pm and the Public Works Committee will meet on Monday, October 27 at 5:15 pm.

CCNS is questioning why the Santa Fe City Council is considering accepting waste from LANL even though LANL has not stopped the migration of contaminants into the Rio Grande and Santa Fe's drinking water supplies. CCNS is urging the City to prevent the opening of another contaminant pathway from LANL.

In November 2007, the Buckman Direct Diversion Board requested that LANL stop the spread of contamination in the Los Alamos and Pueblo Canyons, which discharge to the Rio Grande about two miles upstream from the site of the Buckman Diversion Project. LANL responded in May, but did not make any specific commitments.

There are numerous examples of contaminant transport in the Los Alamos and Pueblo Canyons, including PCBs at 38,000 times the human health standard and the transport of more radioactive contaminants, including plutonium, since the Cerro Grande fire than in the early days of LANL operations. For more information about plutonium transport, visit www.nmenv.state.nm.us/doe_oversight/pubs.htm. In May 2008, the Department of Energy reported increasing levels of radionuclides in both Santa Fe and Los Alamos drinking water wells. For more information on radionuclide levels, visit www.nuclearactive.org/news/080108.html.

The draft waste agreement requires that Los Alamos County monitor its own waste before shipment. Even though LANL has installed and maintains radiation detectors at the Los Alamos Landfill, they are not required to do so at the Caja del Rio Landfill.

Joni Arends, of CCNS, said, "We appreciate the City Council taking another look at the proposed waste agreement. As a community, we cannot accept LANL waste when LANL hasn't stop the spread of contaminants to Santa Fe's drinking water supply. We all need to remain vigilant."

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