Environment Department Ignores Sandia’s Plan to Excavate the Mixed Waste Landfill
Even though Sandia National Laboratory stated it could completely excavate the Mixed Waste Landfill, the New Mexico Environment Department replied that continued sampling and monitoring would be sufficient to address its potential risks. Sandia stated that it would take ten years to excavate the radioactive and hazardous waste dump. The unlined dump, sitting above Albuquerque’s drinking water aquifer is located five miles from the Albuquerque Sunport and one mile from Mesa del Sol.
In 2004, the Environment Department held a contentious public hearing about a proposed modification to Sandia’s hazardous waste permit to determine whether to clean up the dump or put a dirt cover on it. https://www.env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/snl-mwl-2/
Citizen Action New Mexico, Dr. Eric Nuttal, and others opposed the dirt cover because their research and analyses of the conditions on the ground and in the groundwater required that the waste should be excavated, treated and disposed of onsite or offsite in licensed facilities. https://radfreenm.org/ and https://radfreenm.org/index.php/sandia-national-laboratories-mixed-waste-lanfill/195-mixed-waste-landfill-facts
The hearing resulted in the Environment Department approving the installation of a dirt cover and requiring a Five-Year Review of the decision.
Nevertheless, despite a number of complicated delays and frustrating twists and turns, the Environment Department’s issued a 2016 Final Order for the dump that called for Sandia to meet one of two options. The first was to install a landfill that meets hazardous waste management laws and regulations. The waste would be excavated and placed in a licensed landfill with double liners and leachate collection systems beneath both the cover and the liners. The second option was to excavate the radioactive and hazardous wastes, treat them and dispose of them onsite or ship them offsite. 2016-02-12 Final Order – MWL The month, the Environment Department chose neither.
In January 2019, Sandia submitted the first Five-Year Review and stated: “Complete excavation with offsite and onsite disposal are remedial alternatives that could be implemented, if necessary.” Sandia explained that there have been significant changes over time that makes excavation of the 2.6 acre dump a reasonable option. These include the decay of the radioactive cobalt-60 in the dump to levels where it no longer poses a threat to workers and the public; and use of conventional excavation approaches and streamlined waste management systems. Sandia MWL Five Year Rpt. Ex. Sum. 12-14-18 See p. iii of Executive Summary, pdf p. 8.
In May 2019, the public had its opportunity to provide comments about the first Five Year Review. Over 400 public comments were submitted, to which the Environment Department has provided written responses. 2021-07-09-MWL-RTC-table-5-yr-Review
On July 9th, 2021, the Environment Department approved the Five-Year Review without recommending either option outlined in its 2016 Final Order. 2021-07-09-NMED-approves-Five-Year-Report-for-Mixed-Waste-Landfill
For more information, please visit Citizen Action New Mexico at https://radfreenm.org/ and watch the new informative video about Sandia’s Mixed Waste Landfill Facts, with Eileen O’Shaughnessy of the Nuclear Issues Study Group, Dave McCoy of Citizen Action New Mexico, and hosted by Robin Seydel. https://radfreenm.org/index.php
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Tags: 2016 Final Order, Albuquerque Sunport, Citizen Action New Mexico, cobalt-60, complete excavation, Dave McCoy, Dr. Eric Nuttal, Eileen O’Shaughnessy, five-year review, Mesa del Sol, Mixed Waste Landfill, MWL, New Mexico Environment Department, Nuclear Issues Study Group, Robin Seydel, Sandia National Laboratory