NMED agrees to end Chromium settlement

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Lab: State agency concludes conditions have been met

By The Staff

The New Mexico Environment Department agreed Monday to terminate the Chromium Settlement Agreement that has been in place with Los Alamos National Laboratory since 2007.

“NMED has reviewed the Agreement and concludes that the terms of the Agreement have been met,” the notification letter dated Oct. 30 from David Martin, secretary of NMED reads.

In the notification, Martin recaps some of the benchmarks that led up to the termination, chiefly that LANL has “created a publicly accessible database containing information related to the presence and concentrations of contaminants in environmental media (Agreement Item 28).”

Furthermore, Martin stipulates that lab officials “will maintain, and continue to update, the database in accordance with Section III.Z of the Los Alamos National Laboratory Compliance Order on Consent Dated March 1, 2005 as modified on October 29, 2012 (Agreement Item 29).”

In conclusion, the letter from Martin said, “NMED hereby terminates the Settlement Agreement and Final Order HWB 07-27 (CO).”

In 2007, NMED reached a settlement with LANL over the lab’s failure to report chromium contamination in a monitoring well. The department said the lab paid a $251,870 penalty as part of the settlement.

“This enforcement action should remind the operators of LANL that they have a duty to report significant environmental contamination to the state and residents promptly,” Environment Secretary Ron Curry said at the time. “Chromium contamination is a serious issue.”

The department had accused the lab’s operators, Los Alamos National Security LLC and the U.S. Department of Energy, of violating LANL’s hazardous waste permit and a 2005 consent order that governs environmental cleanup activities by failing to report increases of chromium in a groundwater monitoring well in 2004.

The state said four groundwater samples taken from well R-28 in Mortandad Canyon between 2004 and 2005 detected toxic hexavalent chromium at up to four times the drinking water standard and up to eight times the state groundwater quality standard.

Curry’s office said the lab didn’t report the finding to the state until late 2005.

A few weeks ago, the Los Alamos Monitor obtained a final report put together by the New Mexico Community Foundation concerning the RACER project and Intellus, which is the repository for environmental data.

After eight years of providing public education and outreach related to environmental monitoring information from the LANL site, the NMCF was asked by DOE to step aside and relinquish its responsibility as outreach coordinator and database manager of the Intellus NM Project. Intellus will now be operated by NNSA and LANL. DOE notified NMCF on Sept. 18 that, due to financial constraints and uncertainties in budget, NMCF no longer would be funded to provide training, education and outreach to the public on behalf of Intellus NM.

One of the elements of the chromium settlement required LANL to turn their environmental data over to an independent manager. The closure of the agreement allows LANL to manage their data without oversight or involvement from a third-party.

Intellus NM, a new, web-based relational database, was designed to manage environmental data collected in and around the LANL vicinity. It was launched in April 2012 to replace the original environmental database, RACER.

LANL began pursuing the transition to a new environmental database in the fall of 2010 and chose Locus Technologies as their database developers.