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DOE to hold meeting to update public about legacy waste cleanup

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By Tris DeRoma

The Environmental Field Office and the U.S. Department of Energy will update the public about the progress of the toxic waste cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory at a public meeting scheduled for Nov. 16 at Fuller lodge.
The New Mexico Department of Environment Department and the DOE signed a new agreement with LANL June 24 to clean up legacy waste from the Manhattan Project and the Cold War. The agreement details the goals, objectives and methods the DOE will use to remove the waste.
NMED will facilitate next week’s meeting.
“The consent order’s requirement for this public involvement meeting is to review progress, targets and milestones enhances transparency of LANL’s cleanup activities,” NMED Secretary Butch Tongate said. “The agreement governing cleanup that was used prior to 2016 had no such requirement.”
Tongate is referring to the original 2005 consent order that the state signed with the DOE and LANL to improve ongoing cleanup operations.  
The 2005 agreement was revised for 2016 to accommodate new discoveries of waste deposits on lab property. It was also revised in acknowledgement of new  techniques and technologies that occurred between the signing of the 2005 agreement and the 2016 agreement.
“What we’re trying to do here is to take the consent order, which has been effective in certain areas, and try to make it more effective, building upon a decade of experience that we now have”, said former New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn in an earlier article about the consent agreement in the Los Alamos Monitor. “Time changes, technology evolves, and you learn more as a regulator how to more effectively control pollution at a facility.”
Scott Kovac, research and operations director for Nuclear Watch said the organization will be interested to see what the DOE and EM-LA has to say. Nuclear Watch currently has a lawsuit filed in federal court over issues it has with the 2016 agreement.
“With the election and the continuing resolution, (Congress passed a resolution Sept. 29 to keep the federal budget funded through Dec. 9 ) it will be interesting to see how much they can plan,” he said.  
When the EM-LA and the DOE do present their priorities for fiscal year 2017, watchdog group Nuclear Watch is also hoping the agencies show what isn’t going to get funded for that year.
“I would like to see that their continuing list of priority cleanups continue past the amount they have so we can see what’s not getting funded,” Kovac said. “I hope they don’t just stop at $188 million, and say we’re going to do these, what I’d like to see is what’s not getting done because of lack of funding.”
In recent years, congress has allocated between $180 and $190 million annually to clean up LANL. The 2016 agreement has a set a 20-year timeline to clean all properties at the site.
“It’s our concern that if you’re only scheduling one year at a time based on the amount of money you think you’re going to get, the 20 year schedule is going to start slipping,” Kovac said.
The meeting will start at 5 p.m. at Fuller Lodge. The public is invited to attend but there will be no public comment.