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On the water front

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By The Staff

Re: “Contamination shows up in regional aquifer” (Monitor, Sept. 27, 2009). The contrast is striking between Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Danny Katzman, water stewardship program manager, James Bearzi, chief of the Environment Department’s Hazardous Waste Bureau and registered geologist and citizen watchdog Robert Gilkeson.

Katzman says “nothing slips through the cracks.” Bearzi said the contamination is “disturbing.” Mr. Gilkeson points out that the only monitoring well for MDA C is 1000 feet away and calls for installing networks of monitoring wells very close to all LANL waste sites.

Mr. Gilkeson is a staunch advocate for installing a reliable network of monitoring wells that don’t hide knowledge of contamination at both LANL and Sandia National Laboratories.

However, the Environment Department defends the badly flawed monitoring wells at LANL and Sandia with an assessment methodology rejected by both the National Academy of Sciences and the Environmental Protection Agency.

At Sandia, Citizen Action N.M. tried to obtain a technical document about contamination leaking from Sandia’s Mixed Waste Landfill to Albuquerque’s drinking water. The Environment Department sued Citizen Action to prevent the document’s release. Citizen Action then discovered that the Environment Department has kept 200 technical documents secret. Bearzi’s reason is that if the public were aware of the differences, “the pubic might see some sinister motive.”

One of those secret technical documents describes the failure of the LANL computer code used to measure contaminant flow and transport below LANL. Despite their knowledge of the badly flawed code in the technical report, NMED still allows LANL to use the code.

Why isn’t the precious groundwater of New Mexico better protected by the regulator, the laboratories, Congress and the governor? Is this another sell-out to the military industrial complex at the price of public health and the environment?