Still in the Air:  Some Southsiders say the specter of radiation is enough reason to pump the brakes on a proposed housing development

Thank you for checking out our website following today’s Santa Fe Reporter article, Still in the Air:  Some Southsiders say the specter of radiation is enough reason to pump the brakes on a proposed housing development,” and letter to the editor in the Santa Fe New Mexican Is it Safe?


As we wrote in last week’s CCNS News Update, there are too many unanswered questions about possible contamination of the Eberline/ThermoFisher industrial site and the surrounding areas.  A thorough investigation of the soil, water and air has not been done to determine what remains of the Eberline radiation detection equipment manufacturing operations that began in 1953. 

The Environmental Protection Agency opened a Superfund cleanup investigation in 2007 when manufacturing ended.  In 2009, EPA reopened the investigation.  We don’t know the status of the investigations. 

Eberline/ThermoFisher has submitted numerous decommissioning plans since that time, which have been rejected by the New Mexico Environment Department Radiation Control Bureau.  Brief History of Eberline ThermoFisher 20230129

What we do know is that without a thorough investigation, moving dirt around, digging sewer lines, and building foundations could result in exposures to workers, neighbors and school children. 

The precautionary principle must be invoked in this situation.  If you are not familiar with the precautionary principle, it “has four central components:

·       taking preventive action in the face of uncertainty;

·       shifting the burden of proof to the proponents of an activity;

·       exploring a wide range of alternatives to possibly harmful actions; and

·       increasing public participation in decision making.”   

We offer a recent example of when the precautionary principle was not invoked.


 Let’s look to the northwest to DP Road in Los Alamos.  DP Road runs parallel to the airport on the next mesa to the south.  On the south side of DP Road there was a Manhattan Project dump, called Material Disposal Area B.  It was excavated in the late 2000s with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding.  Because of the uncertainty of the dump’s contents, CCNS urged the Department of Energy to expand the proposed cleanup area.  That was not done. , ,


Los Alamos County began construction of affordable housing projects on both sides of DP Road next to the dump.   Sure enough, when contractors were digging a new sewer line, they dug up radioactive and hazardous waste.


Families have been living in the housing.  Investigations are on going.  Each investigation reveals more waste.  We quote from the N3B webpage:


November 21, 2022

Following additional confirmation soil sampling at the Middle DP Road (MDPR) site, the extent of soil contamination has been determined for four of the five areas where contaminated debris was initially excavated. N3B is determining whether additional remediation is needed at two of those sites. At the fifth site, N3B continues to investigate the extent of contamination from elevated levels of metals. N3B will remediate as necessary in that location. Radiologically contaminated soil has been excavated from all sites.  [Emphasis added.]

N3B continues shipping waste from the MDPR site for off-site disposal and crews are conducting site restoration where investigations and remediation have concluded. Restoration includes the replacement of storm water controls, in addition to seeding to maintain vegetation growth.


What can we learn from the DP Road example?  A thorough investigation is needed about possible contamination of the Eberline site and the 22 acres of open space on South Meadows.  The fact that EPA started two Superfund investigations reveals that many unanswered questions remain.

            Speak up at the City Council meeting this evening at 7 pm either in person or on zoom.  The instructions to connect are described in the meeting agenda.  Agenda_2023020100294215


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