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DOE completes legacy waste cleanup at 4 sites in LA Canyon

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Consent order > Work is part of 2016 order; 133 cubic yards of soil removed from site

By Tris DeRoma

Four toxic waste sites located on the south rim of Los Alamos Canyon have been cleaned of toxic waste, according to the Department of Energy and the Environmental Management Field Office.
The sites, located on the south-facing side of the canyon, contained surface deposits of waste leftover from the Manhattan Project.
“Removing contaminated soil from these four sites represents an important step in our cleanup efforts around the Los Alamos Townsite,” EM-LA Manager Doug Hintze said.
The DOE reported Oct. 6 it had removed about 133 cubic yards of soil from the site, where it was screened and packaged it for transport to a waste disposal site in Utah.
The waste was located adjacent to DOE property, and was accessed through private land located along the north rim of the canyon.
The cleanup began in June and was carried out by private subcontractor TerranearPMC.
The project was part of the 2016 Compliance Order of Consent that was recently finalized by the DOE, Los Alamos National Laboratory’s management contractor, Los Alamos National Security LLC, and the New Mexico Environment Department.
The DOE is planning to clean the last sites on the south rim in 2017. The DOE reported the project was done “under budget and ahead of schedule.”
At a LANL Leadership Conference Tuesday, Hintze explained how TerranearPMC are using technology to keep workers from having to scale the cliffs at certain sites and manually extract the soil through the use of remote-controlled equipment and other technology. It hasn’t been confirmed that any remote controlled tech was used in the Los Alamos Canyon operation, but it has been used to help clean up waste on certain sites.
“What that allows us to do is use the machinery to dig up the contaminated soil, take it, put it in containers and ship it off. This way it’s safer for the workers because they aren’t working on the steep slopes… and you’re also reducing the exposure to personnel to that contaminant,” he said.
TerranearPMC was a graduate of the the DOE’s “Mentor-Protégé Program,” a program that links disadvantaged, minority and women-owned small businesses with the bigger government contractors the DOE works with, in this case Los Alamos National Security LLC, the contractor that operates and manages the lab.
The 2016 Compliance Order of Consent is a recent revision of the original 2005 Compliance Order of Consent. Talk of updating the document began shortly after the 2011 Las Conchas Fire. After the fire, which threatened to overtake LANL and the town at one point, Gov. Susana Martinez asked that the lab reprioritize its cleanup efforts of above ground waste as covered under the 2005 agreement.
In 2012, the DOE, LANL and the New Mexico Environment Department entered into a Framework Agreement, where they further agreed that they need to revamp the original consent order at a later date. That occurred in March with the 2016 consent order.