State may fine lab for faulty well

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By Roger Snodgrass

The New Mexico Environment Department issued a notice to lab managers Friday afternoon for a violation of the comprehensive cleanup agreement.

NMED proposes a penalty of $1.87 million against the Department of Energy and Los Alamos National Security, LLC, for failing to plug and abandon a groundwater monitoring well in Mortandad Canyon.

In the announcement Friday, NMED said the well is known to have elevated levels of laboratory-related contaminants – chromium, perchlorate, nitrate and tritium – that threaten the water system.

“While local water supplies are regularly tested and are safe, I’m troubled with the lab’s failure to comply with the department’s directives,” said Environment Department Secretary Ron Curry in a prepared statement. “Those directives include protecting the regional aquifer from this leaking well.”

Fred DeSousa, a spokesperson for the laboratory’s environmental program said Friday that the lab’s top priority is to keep the drinking water safe.

“It's important to remember, and the state agrees, that the drinking water is safe,” he said. “Our data tells us the water is leaking from one pocket in the ground to another pocket, but it's still 400 feet above the water supply.”

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