Local News

  • Search yields waste lost by lab staff

    For about a week in February, personnel in charge of tracking the movement of hazardous waste inside the Los Alamos National Laboratory lost track of two one-gallon containers with hazardous waste in them. None of the materials were radiological.

    The missing materials included a substance that protects electronics and wiring from extreme fluctuations in temperature. According to classification by the Environmental Protection Agency, one of the materials, toluene diisocyanate, has reactive properties, and is known to cause skin and lung damage to humans if exposure exceeds a certain level or is handled improperly. The lab reported the materials were missing Feb. 2 to the New Mexico Environment Department, two days after they were found missing.

    The containers were discovered missing Jan. 30 through a routine records check of a storage unit in Technical Area 54, Area L. LANL personnel reported the NMED’s Hazardous Waste Bureau about the missing materials Feb. 2.

    The waste was found packed into a 55-gallon waste container Feb. 5 in Technical Area 54, Area L.

    The lab’s Environmental Protection and Compliance Division described the incident and what the EPC Division is going to do about it in a March 19 letter addressed to the New Mexico Environment Department’s Hazardous Waste Bureau.

  • Moratorium decision expected soon

    The Los Alamos County Council will consider a 60-day moratorium on nuisance code enforcement for residents Tuesday.

    Council will also introduce two related ordinances at the meeting. One ordinance proposes to codify the expansion of the response time residents will have to answer a violation notice from the county from two days to two weeks.

    “That’s going to be for weeds, RVs, just about anything, except for matters of egregious health and safety,” Helen Milenski said.

    Milenski, who is also running for a county council seat, is one of the residents involved in reforming the county’s nuisance code. Milenski, along with resident Heather Ortega, formed a group called Citizens in Action in an effort to reform the Los Alamos County Development Office’s enforcement of the town’s nuisance codes.

    Many residents thought the county was being too heavy handed in their approach when it came to residential property violations.

    Citizens in Action was responsible for having the three items brought before council after a year of negotiation and community activism.

  • State environment dept. to fine LANL for hazardous waste violations

    The New Mexico Environment Department is expected to fine the Los Alamos
National Laboratory for exceeding state and federal time limits for storing
 hazardous waste. 

    “Specifically, LANL had stored (two) hazardous waste containers over the
 90-day storage time limit in central accumulation storage areas, and had
 stored (three) hazardous waste containers over the 1-year storage time 
limit in permitted units,” Hazardous Waste Bureau Chief John Kieling said
 in a March 15 letter to LANL officials.

    With the 90-day storage time limit violation, NMED claims the lab stored 
two containers full of hazardous waste 20 days past the 90-day time limit
 before notifying NMED.

    Penalties for each violation could be as much as
 $10,000 a day for non compliance of New Mexico’s Hazardous Waste Management
regulations and of the Resource Conversation and Recovery Act Hazardous
 Waste Operating Permit at Technical Area 55.

    Technical Area 55 is houses LANL’s plutonium processing facilities.

  • How to have a successful walk to Chimayó

    Every year, many Los Alamos residents renew their special bond they have with Jesus Christ by making the Good Friday pilgrimage to Santuario de Chimayó. When they arrive, they may take a sample of sanctified dirt that is thought to have healing powers.

    At 6:30 a.m. Friday, pilgrims will gather in the parking lots of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Los Alamos and St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in White Rock.

    From there, carpools will take them to the parking lot of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Pojoaque. From there they will walk the 11-13 miles to the Santuario de Chimayó.

    The McLaughlin family has helped organize the Los Alamos part of the walk for many years, starting with late resident Karen McLaughlin. McLaughlin, was a religious program director at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church who passed away in 2002, started organizing the walk for church youth in 1980.

    “During that time, she was looking to get teens involved in things that would kindle their thought process and be a positive influence,” her husband Tom McLaughlin said.

    Tom McLaughlin and his children have since taken over organizing the walk in Los Alamos.

  • Apartment developers make the rounds in LA

    A developer held a meet-and-greet session March 22 at Cottonwood on the Greens Restaurant in Los Alamos, mainly to answer questions from the public about a new proposal for an apartment complex on Trinity Drive.

    The developer, LAH Investors LLC, could fill a spot south of Trinity and 35th Street once occupied by a Department of Energy Los Alamos Area Office. 

    If approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission, the complex will feature about 150 units on 12 acres just off of Trinity Drive.

    “It was very helpful that the developer, architect and county staff were on hand to answer any and all questions. The developer will take feedback they received at the meeting and try to incorporate it into the finished design,” Los Alamos County Economic Development Administrator Joan Ahlers said. “They are working diligently to get the site testing completed and financing in place, so that they can begin the actual design and construction documents required to get site plan approval and building permits.”

    LAH Investors LLC plans to submit an application to Planning and Zoning for site plan approval. 

  • ‘The kids are rocking it’

    How does a person effect change in his or her community?

    That was the question that was proposed by Julia Agnew to her social studies class at Los Alamos Middle School.

    And the answers are speaking volumes.

    Agnew has been teaching her seventh-graders the importance of giving back to their community, as well as making connections with others outside of their community.

    The social studies Gifted and Talented Education Program (GATE) students have come up with three service projects that are effecting change in their community.

    One group of students is creating toys and activities to help promote adoptions at the Los Alamos County Animal Shelter, a second group has raised over $200 so far for an international clean water initiative and a third has investigated cafeteria food pricing with a focus on what students want to eat.

    That group is also addressing the subject of food waste with the help of cafeteria manager Mia Holsapple.

    While Agnew helps facilitate and coordinate the activities, she said it’s the students that are taking the lead in the projects.

    “The kids are rocking it!” she said. “They are very proud of these projects as they should be.”

  • Shin energizes base, lays out campaign strategy

    Surrounded by supporters, friends and family crowded in the living room of her house Saturday, Republican District 43 Candidate Lisa Shin laid out her campaign strategy.
    “To me, my campaign is not just about Lisa Shin. It’s not about my personality. It’s not a popularity contest,” Shin told her supporters. “To me it’s about the principles.”

    Shin also said this chance was a rare opportunity to win the contested seat back from the Democrats.

    Democrat Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard has held the office since 2013. Garcia Richard announced earlier this year she was stepping down to run for New Mexico Land Commissioner.

    Shin is an active member and vice chair of the Los Alamos Republican Party. In 2016, she spoke as a New Mexico delegate at the national Republican Convention, where she gave a rousing speech about immigration and conservative values.

    Saturday, she brought that same energy to her supporters, but also said it wasn’t going to be easy.

    “I thought that I might be running against Stephanie. The fact that she dropped out, and that it’s now an open seat, I think this is the closest we’ll ever be. If we can get me in now, we can keep it. If we lose it, I think it’s probably lost for good,” Shin told her supporters.

  • LAPD earns national accreditation

    Years of hard work paid off in a big way for members of the Los Alamos Police Department Saturday when the department was awarded a certificate of national accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agents.

    The achievement was announced at the CALEA conference in Frisco, Texas.

    The honor is known as the “gold standard” in law enforcement accreditation, with less than 5 percent of all law enforcement agencies in North America being nationally accredited.

    “This award represents the professionalism and dedication of the men and women of the Los Alamos Police Department,” said LAPD Chief Dino Sgambellone. “I am extremely proud of the Department and thankful for the support we have received from the County Manager, County Council, and the citizens we serve. We look forward to continuing to honor our commitment to those we serve through professional police service.”

  • New Mexico officials: Be prepared for a severe fire season

    By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN, Associated Press

    ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico is dry and the spring winds are already in full force, resulting in what authorities say is the perfect recipe for a potentially severe fire season.

    Dozens of state and federal land managers along with officials from New Mexico's largest city and surrounding communities gathered Tuesday in Albuquerque to issue a warning to residents around the state.

    Crews have responded to more than 140 fires that have charred roughly 50 square miles of state and private land since January. That's nearly more than was burned all of last year.

    State forestry officials say 80 of the fires were reported in March alone.

    In the cottonwood forest along Albuquerque's stretch of the Rio Grande, crews have been working to clear out overgrown and dead vegetation to reduce the risk.

  • Suits could disqualify several New Mexico House candidates

    SANTA FE (AP) — Lawsuits have been filed that seek to disqualify at least three Republican candidates and two Democrats from running for the New Mexico House of Representatives, according to court documents released Monday.

    The lawsuits in state district courts could eliminate competition in three House races between Republicans and Democrats, as well as two primaries in Democrat-dominated districts.

    Democrats hold a 38-seat majority in the 70-member House, and they aim to control both legislative chambers as well as the governor's office. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez can't run for re-election after two consecutive terms.

    Elections for the Democrat-controlled Senate take place next in 2020.

    The suits describe alleged failures to meet requirements for collecting signatures, and could sideline incumbent Republican Reps. Kelly Fajardo of Belen and Sharon Clahchischilliage of Shiprock, along with Republican challenger Bev Courtney of Las Cruces. Courtney hopes to unseat Rep. Joanne Ferrary in the November general election.