Local News

  • State, LANL partner in radioactive removal

    Gov. Susana Martinez and New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn held a press conference Thursday at the Los Alamos Laboratory to announce the successful removal and transport of a drum of radioactive material from Santa Fe to the lab.
    The drum was discovered in May 2015, during an inspection of a warehouse by NMED. The warehouse, owned by Thermo Fisher, a company that manufactures medical instruments and smoke detectors, is located on Airport Road in Santa Fe.
    The drum contained 8.63 curies of Americium, a highly radioactive material used in the manufacture of smoke detectors.
    According to officials the drum had been stored at the warehouse for over 10 years. Though the material was stabilized and in a secure location, the warehouse is located in a residential area next to a church and a school.
    “This material is not waste,” Flynn said. “It was stable and secure, but it was in a location we believed was not ideal, since it was in a residential area next to a school.”
    LANL agreed to accept the radioactive waste and the state negotiated with Thermo Fisher to transport it at no cost to taxpayer, Flynn said. NMED estimated the cost of the operation would be more than $6 million, but most of that would be in transporting and securing the material.

  • Heinrich, colleges look at filling LANL jobs

    Sen. Martin Heinrich (D–N.M.) wants to boost New Mexicans’ chances of filling approximately 2,000 vacancies at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in the next five years.
    To facilitate that goal, Heinrich gathered representatives from LANL and seven northern New Mexico colleges for a roundtable on Wednesday to discuss ways to tailor programs to meet the lab’s needs and better prepare students to compete for those positions.
    “With thousands of jobs turning over at Los Alamos in the next five years, we need to make sure we’re leveraging every one of those that we can get to come from a New Mexico institution,” Heinrich said.
    LANL’s Acting Deputy Director of Human Resources Johnny Herrera gave statistics on the number of vacancies anticipated between now and 2020. The lab projects the need for 675 new people in research and development, 375 in science and engineering support, 700 in the business service sector and 675 in operations support.
    Herrera noted that those numbers do not include craft workers, such as electricians and pipe fitters, since those positions are filled through the unions. He stressed that there is an ongoing need to fill those positions as well.

  • Bank evacuated after chemical smell

    Employees at the Los Alamos National Bank in White Rock were temporarily evacuated from the building Thursday morning after an employee complained of dizziness.

    Los Alamos Fire Department officials said the smell was from an unidentified chemical. The employee was not hospitalized. As of press time, the incident is still under investigation.

  • Health Dept.: Zika case confirmed in Bernalillo County woman

    SANTA FE (AP) — State health officials say a 40-year-old Bernalillo County woman is the second person in New Mexico to contract the Zika virus while traveling.

    The New Mexico Department of Health announced Wednesday that the woman contracted the virus while traveling in the Caribbean.

    The woman's name hasn't been released.

    A 46-year-old Bernalillo County man contracted the virus in March while traveling in El Salvador and his since recovered.

    The virus can be transmitted from mosquitoes or through sexual contact.

    State DOH Secretary Designate Lynn Gallagher says the department expects to see more travel-related cases as the outbreak persists in Central and South America and the Caribbean.

  • Regulator warns of long, costly cleanup at Los Alamos lab

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — New Mexico's top environmental regulator says it could take the federal government another decade and more than $4 billion to clean up the hazardous waste and contamination remaining at one of the nation's premier nuclear weapons laboratories.

    Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn provided the estimate Wednesday to state lawmakers as he outlined proposed changes to a consent order that guides cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

    It's been more than a decade since New Mexico and the U.S. Energy Department first signed the order. Flynn told lawmakers that it's time to move from investigating contaminated sites at the northern New Mexico lab to doing real work.

    "Everyone is very eager to move forward and I think the priorities of the department as well as the communities are all in line," Flynn said. "We want to accelerate cleanup and we want to try to leverage more funding for cleanup. How we get there, there are differences of opinion, but I think we all share those same goals."

    The Environment Department is reviewing roughly 30 public comments received over the last 60 days, but it's unclear when a final decision on the order will be made.

  • Early voting jump this year

    With four-and-a-half days of early voting remaining in this year’s primary election cycle, early voter turnout already surpasses that of 2012
    As of 11:53 a.m. Tuesday, in-person voting totaled 1,440. An additional 81 absentee ballots have been turned in, with 107 outstanding.
    In 2012, early voting and absentee ballots totaled 1,260. Election Day turnout was 1,913. The off-year election in 2014 totaled 1,092 early voters.
    Voter registration is also up slightly for this time of year, compared to 2012, but down from that in 2014. The total number of registered voters as of Tuesday was 13,476. It was at 13,218 in 2012 and at 13,768 in 2014.
    Only 10,006 of those registered voters are eligible to vote in the primary. Since New Mexico has a closed primary system and only Democratic and Republican parties have contested races, the 2,905 voters who declined to state party affiliation and the 565 who registered for other parties cannot participate.
    Another interesting aspect of this year’s registration number is that the balance of Democratic to Republican voters has shifted. For the first time since 1987, the number of registered Democrats exceeds Republicans.

  • Bears spotted roaming LA

    Los Alamos County residents have reported several bear sightings recently, two of them in residential backyards on Barranca Mesa, and one near the Los Alamos National Bank.
    No one was hurt in the incidents.
    It’s not known if they are one in the same bear, but one thing is for certain – it’s definitely the time of season for bear sightings, according to Los Alamos Police Department spokesman Cmdr. Preston Ballew.
    Bears are often seen this time of year, and residents should be aware of their presence. Ballew said.
    “They are now coming out of hibernation, and I would assume that they are now trying to find something to eat,” Ballew said.
    Residents can minimize encounters with bears if they bring in their trashcans and bird feeders. Doing so would allow the bears to move off in search of more natural food sources, he said.
    Lance Cherry, the chief of education information at the New Mexico Game and Fish Department, said the bears people are most likely seeing are black bears. Though the bears people are seeing range from cinnamon to dark brown, they are still considered black bears.

  • P and Z moving toward sign code changes

    At its April 27 meeting, the Los Alamos Planning and Zoning Commission asked staff to draft an ordinance adopting some of the business community’s suggestions for improving the sign code.
    Other suggestions met with some opposition.
    “The tweaks to the sign code would give the businesses a set of tools to visually switch up their exterior promotional marketing, to keep it fresh, to make their locations visible to the local consumers as well as tourists and it better allows them to communicate their messages in targeted formats,” said Chamber of Commerce Manager Nancy Partridge, who presented the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation’s (LACDC) proposal, drafted after discussions with the business community and the county’s Community Development Department (CDD).
    The commission liked LACDC’s suggestions regarding new business banners, banner announcements and hours of operation signs, but wanted input from other groups on the issue of feather banners and vending machines.
    The current code for both new business and temporary banners allows a banner to be displayed for 30 days two times a calendar year.
    The proposal for the new ordinance differentiates between those two banner types.

  • Stamp dedication at Bandelier Thursday

    The U.S. Postal Service will hold a First-Day-of-Issue Dedication Ceremony for the National Parks Forever Stamps at the Bandelier National Monument visitor center at 11 a.m. Thursday.
    Bandelier was one of 16 national parks chosen for the stamp series honoring the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. The NPS system includes 411 national lands.
    Representatives of the U.S. Postal Service and local park officials will be on hand for the unveiling, and stamp booklets will be for sale.

  • ‘This is our moment’

    Los Alamos saw another class of high schoolers off into the world Saturday as 253 students, their friends and family crowded into Griffith Gymnasium to share the last two hours together.
    Between the opening color guard ceremony and the ceremonial tossing of the caps, guest speakers spoke about how important it was to savor every moment, follow their dreams, and to be the change they want to see in the world.  
    “Ultimately, today is a celebration,” said graduate Faith Montano. ”It is a culmination of 13 years of hard work. Class of 2016, after all of the long nights, all of the homework and practices, all of the school dances after all of the tests, quizzes and projects, and after rejoicing in all these beautiful things these years have had to offer and surviving all of the obstacles we’ve faced, we’re finally sitting here.
    “This is our moment. Let it sink in. Celebrate your classmates, your victories, and your classmates, and yourself,” she said.
    High school senior Eric Leith then inspired his fellow graduates with his story of how he went from being more interested in shooting paper balls into wastebaskets and texting, to finding his love for writing during his four years at Los Alamos High School.