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More details emerged Wednesday afternoon concerning the termination of the Chromium Agreement between the New Mexico Environment Department and the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Department of Energy.
NMED concluded that the terms of the Chromium Settlement Agreement were met as follows:
• Payment of a civil penalty in the amount of $251,870.00 on July 13, 2007;
• Modification of the March 1, 2005 Order was modified on June 28, 2008 to add a section requiring notification of detections and increases in contaminant concentrations in groundwater and that this modification would be a Class 2 modification if made under the Permit;
• Creation of a publicly accessible database containing information related to the presence and concentrations of contaminants in environmental media; “The termination of the Chromium Settlement will provide continued transparency by allowing public access to a database on reporting requirements stipulated by the Consent Order,” said NMED Secretary Dave Martin.
“The information provided in the database is important for the public to access in the long-term.”
In April, the lab announced that it was replacing its prior version of a publicly accessible environmental database called RACER with the expanded, web-based database known as Intellus New Mexico.
According to the lab statement, Intellus NM displays the same internal data that regulatory agencies and laboratory scientists see and use for environmental analysis and monitoring of the laboratory site.
It contains more than 11 million records, including historical data as well as a near-real-time view of current data, and the data is checked for quality and verified by independent laboratories. In addition, Intellus NM includes environmental data collected by the Oversight Bureau of the New Mexico Environment Department.
“Having our system in ‘the cloud’ means the data can now be uploaded automatically, without any delay and without the need to upload the data manually,” said Michael Brandt, the laboratory’s associate director of Environment, Safety and Health.
“Adding this enforceable requirement to the Consent Order ensures that the laboratory will continue to make its environmental data available to the public,” said Pete Maggiore, assistant manager of the Environmental Projects Office for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Los Alamos Site Office.
“We are pleased that the Environment Department approved the modification,” said Jeff Mousseau, associate director of the laboratory’s Environmental Programs organization. “Our sampling and monitoring efforts are extensive and we support the enhanced accessibility and transparency afforded by Intellus NM.”
The lab said it will continue to conduct training sessions on how to use the database. It is also updating terminology used in the database to make it more understandable to non-technical audiences. The laboratory will make public announcements about training sessions and database updates as they occur.
Last month, DOE relieved the New Mexico Community Foundation of its duties as a neutral third party.
That does not sit well with some watchdog groups.
“Regardless of any efforts by the lab at transparency and community involvement, much of the public hesitates to rely on LANL as the sole source of any information,” said Scott Kovac of Nuclear Watch New Mexico. Calling up the lab to ask questions about Intellus would be difficult for many. In addition, there is no actual requirement for the lab to interact with the public concerning Intellus, so answering public questions or public training could end at any time due to budget cuts.
“We hope that NMED would restore the requirement for a truly independent manager of Intellus as soon as possible, including during any possible upcoming renegotiations of the Consent Order. This would increase public involvement in environmental decisions that affect them.” registered geologist Robert Gilkeson, who does a lot of work with Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety in Santa Fe, added, “I am a technical person with more than 40 years’ experience with environmental data. At this time even I need assistance from NMCF to ferret out environmental data from Intellus.”