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Workers uncovered two, 55-gallon drums from an excavation pit at Los Alamos National Laboratory's Material Disposal Area B earlier in the day Wednesday. The drums were uncovered inside an enclosure on the east end of the landfill on DP Road.
Workers noticed that some liquid had spilled out from the containers. The project’s sensing equipment inside the enclosure detected elevated levels of “volatile organic compounds,” which LANL spokesman Fred deSousa described as “a group of chemicals that includes things like acetone, paint and formaldehyde.”
A standard spill response ensued, he said, adding that a couple of hours later, outside the enclosure, some workers reported a chemical odor. Seven of the workers reported headaches and nausea.
As a precaution, 13 workers were sent to LANL’s Occupational Medicine clinic where they were examined and released without treatment.
The laboratory closed off access to the area and reburied the material until it can be packaged safely, deSousa said.
Excavation work continues in the four other enclosures on DP Road.
deSousa also said that the leak inside the enclosure presented no danger to the public and no radioactive materials were involved.