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Officials of the New Mexico Environment Department took an unguided tour of the laboratory environs Thursday.
The group included Sec. Ron Curry, Dep. Sec. Jon Goldstein and other senior officials along with staff from the Los Alamos office and the legislative finance committee.
Hazardous Waste Bureau Chief James Bearzi said Friday that the visit to several areas outside the fence of Los Alamos National Laboratory was a routine field trip by the headquarters group to familiarize themselves with the site and the ongoing issues.
“The Secretary wants to stay on top of the Buckman Direct Diversion project,” Bearzi said, referring to a Santa Fe water project that lies downstream from the Los Alamos watershed.
“We spent a lot of time in the Los Alamos-Pueblo Canyon area,” he said. “Deleterious effects are seen downstream, well beyond the laboratory boundaries.”
Bearzi said the laboratory and DOE managers had recently paid the last interest payments on late penalties owed to the state for violations of the consent order that governs the environmental cleanup project at the laboratory.
“They’re all paid up,” he said, noting this is the time of year when the documents are prepared for setting up criteria for stipulated penalties for next year.
Tuesday in Santa Fe
The department has been keeping close tabs on the laboratory lately.
A town hall meeting at Fuller Lodge at the end of April has been followed by the announcement of plans to hold “listening sessions” in Santa Fe, Los Alamos and other venues in northern New Mexico.
The Santa Fe meeting will be held from 5-7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center, 3221 Rodeo Road.
Another meeting is scheduled for 5:30-7 p.m. Sept. 23 at Fuller Lodge.
Bearzi said the meetings are co-sponsored by the New Mexico Community Foundation and were not limited to environmental issues. The conveners expect the conversation to touch on economic, social, political and cultural issues, stated a recent announcement, as well as anything that would help the department handle potential environmental risks posed by the lab.
“The department is finding other partners to help understand community concerns,” he said. “We’re interested in anything about Los Alamos – good, bad and indifferent.”