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DOE And NMED Hold Joint Meeting On Legacy Waste Clean-Up

on January 18, 2018 - 1:51pm

Environmental Management Los Alamos Field Office Manager Doug Hintze, right, and New Mexico Environment Department Hazardous Waste Bureau Chief John Kieling take notes as NNSA representative Arturo Duran answers questions from the audience during Tuesday evening's meeting hosted by DOE and NMED at the Los Alamos County Municipal Building. Duran earlier outlined milestones and targets for FY 2018 legacy waste clean-up. Photo by Maire O'Neill/

Scene from the New Mexico Environment Department public information meeting on FY2018 Appendix B milestones and targets Tuesday evening at the Los Alamos County Municipal Building. Photo by Maire O'Neill/


Los Alamos Daily Post

New Mexico Environment Department and the Department of Energy’s Environmental Management Los Alamos Field Office hosted a public information meeting Tuesday evening at the Los Alamos County Municipal Building concerning legacy waste clean-up priorities for Fiscal Year 2018 at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The meeting was scheduled in accordance with the Consent Order signed by the DOE and NMED in 2016, which established the process for investigation and remediation of contamination from legacy waste through a campaign-based approach and an annual planning process.

Under the Consent Order, NMED and DOE agreed to identify between 10 and 30 targets for each three-year window. DOE also has to provide a date by which it estimates all work under the Consent Order will be completed based on the completion of milestones for the previous fiscal year and the list of uncompleted corrective activities for each solid waste unit and area of concern.

All milestones under Appendix B of the Consent Order for FY-2017 have been approved by NMED with the exception of four supplemental investigation reports related to chromium concentrations. NMED also has granted an extension request for a final corrective measures evaluation for RDX to allow LANL to install a new regional aquifer well, R-68, north of the Canon de Valle.

EM Los Alamos Field Officer Manager Doug Hintze explained how the Consent Order provides for corrective activities to be organized into campaigns consisting of one or more tasks and deliverables, which may be divided into two types of deadlines; milestones that are enforceable or targets that are not enforceable.

Hintze presented lifecycle cost estimates for a list of 17 campaigns including the estimated year of completion range and estimated costs as well as the budget outlook for EM for FY 2018. His numbers reflected the President’s request at $191,629,000, with the House mark-up at $194 million and the Senate mark-up at $217,529,000.

Hintze stressed that the priorities of the clean-up effort continue to be safety, efficiency and transparency.

“For every dollar we get, we should be spending it in the most optimal way possible. I would not ask you or anyone else to go out there and get us more money if we’re going to waste that money. We don’t want more money if we can’t use it efficiently,” he said.

Hintze said the EM program has nothing classified so they will tell everything and anything about what they are doing and what their schedule is.

“You might not like it. For example, some folks say we may have in our plans a cap and cover of an area instead of actually digging it up. Well, our job is to make it safe, for the protection of the public, the environment and the workers, which does not mean everything has to be dug up and sent away,” he said.

Hintze said whatever EM does, working with NMED and the citizens of the state, they will change. “So, when you look at that lifecycle cost estimate, it’s a strategic plan. Things will change as we go along. One thing I can guarantee is that plan is wrong because not every assumption between now and 2035 will come true,” Hintze said. “We already have had assumptions this year that are changing.”

He said throughout the next 20 years, there will be a lot more change, which means the cost and the schedule of the program will change.

“That’s why you all need to understand what’s in that plan and weigh in through the public process for the clean-up through NMED. That’s the process when we go through the corrective measures evaluation for example for chromium that will be through a public participation process. That’s when you weigh in,” Hintze said. “This is a strategic plan so that you can understand the direction we’re going in. If the decision is made to dig up every single piece of waste that has been up there, then we’ll do it. It’s a decision that’s based on risk. It’s a decision based on what we, the country want to spend money on.”

Jay Coghlan, director of Nuclear Watch told EM and NMED officials there has been no opportunity for the public to provide input before decisions are made and that’s what counts.

“You’re standing here telling us what decisions are being made and we’re going to have strong disagreement,” Coghlan said.

Other concerns also were voiced about the lack of public participation and the opportunity to comment on the clean-up schedule as well as the feeling that the schedule is determined by funding at DOE’s discretion rather than the schedule driving the funding as it was under the 2005 Consent Order.

NMED Hazardous Waste Bureau Chief John Kieling was questioned about whether stipulated penalties under the Consent Order would be paid out of clean-up funds or come from elsewhere such as from funds docked from contractors by NNSA. Kieling said he had not talked to the NMED Secretary recently but he believed the stipulated penalties would come from elsewhere.


Regional Coalition of LANL Communities Communications and Administrative Director Scarlet Rendleman asks questions at Tuesday night's legacy waste public information meeting hosted by NMED and DOE. Photo by Maire O'Neill/

Technical Program Director for LANL's Chromium Project Danny Katzman answers a questions from the audience at Tuesday evenings joint NMED and DOE meeting. Photo by Maire O'Neill/