Local News

  • IN THE LAB: Overcoming the ‘space factor’

    With Erin Quinn, Los Alamos National Laboratory

    Whenever an instrument is sent into space, worries abound. As if the launch were not risky enough (with the threat of explosion on the launch pad or the extreme vibrations shaking parts loose), a host of other threats emerge once the spacecraft safely reaches orbit. Extreme temperatures and high radiation levels can easily damage parts and result in malfunction. Then there is the satellite’s great distance from Earth. If there is a problem, it cannot be recalled for a quick fix. So, it is critical that everything work properly before it makes its dramatic ascension into space.

    That is where software developers like Erin Quinn come in. Quinn works in Space Data Science and Systems group on the ground support equipment for the Space and Atmospheric Burst Reporting System (SABRS), one of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s satellite-borne treaty-monitoring payloads. More than 50 years ago, Los Alamos and the forerunner to the Department of Energy supported the first satellites to detect nuclear explosions in the atmosphere or space. This early capability was an essential element in the first treaty that regulated nuclear weapons tests. The first SABRS payload was launched in 2012 and SABRS-2 was successfully launched after that.

  • LAFD preps for fire season

    An above average performance in any field is a good thing, unless it’s in the field of fire season.
    In that case it is most definitely cause for extra concern.

    “Due to the severe lack of moisture, according to what we normally get, and just the early fire season we’ve seen here in New Mexico it’s shaping up to be a pretty above-average season for us,” said Los Alamos Fire Department Wildland

    Deputy Chief Kelly Sterna. “Last year we were one of the few regions in the country that burned normal averages, which are based on 10-year averages.”

    Sterna said the fire season typically rides in on the winds of April, which dry up anything that’s not dry already.
    “Usually you get a lot of rain and snow in March and April and that greens everything up,” he said. “Then the winds come and dry it all out and cures it, which basically makes it more easy to burn.”

    Humans generally start fires early in the season while lightening strikes are responsible for most late-season fires

  • Officials set April date for New Mexico border wall work

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Officials are hoping to break ground on a project replacing 20 miles of border wall in Santa Teresa, New Mexico in early April.

    That's according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection Acting Deputy Commissioner Ronald D. Vitiello.

    Vitiello briefed reporters Friday on how the administration plans to spend the $1.6 billion Congress authorized for border wall construction this year.

    It's much less than the $25 billion Trump wanted. But officials are eager to show they're nonetheless making progress.

    Vitiello says the money will provide for about 100 miles of new and replacement wall, including replacing 14 miles of steel landing mat in densely populated San Diego with a bollard-style wall.

    Barriers currently blanket 654 miles of the 1,954-mile southern Mexico.

  • Wildfire Day puts emphasis on safety, but it’s fun too

    Kelly Sterna believes Saturday’s Wildfire Day celebration at Ashley Pond Park is not only an important educational event, but also just a lot of fun too.

    “It’s essential to provide the public outreach through events like this,” the Los Alamos Fire Department’s Wildland Division chief said Wednesday. “It’s vital to give the knowledge of fire prevention we have and share it with the community. That’s the first part of preparedness is to educate people, to get them aware of the hazards that are around their homes and community.”

    Wildfire Day begins at 10 a.m. and wraps up at around 2 p.m.
    Sterna said others participating in the enjoyment and educational aspects of the day include the National Parks Service, with their pal Smokey the Bear, as well as the Los Alamos National Lab’s Fire Management team, a helicopter and crew from Classic Air and members of the Los Alamos Police Department among others.

    “We’ll have a lot of public outreach things centering around defensible space and Wildland fire preparedness.”

    Sterna also said LAFD will conduct a bicycle helmet giveaway for young cyclists.

  • School board renews three leases

    The Los Alamos School Board approved the renewal of three of the leases it holds during its recent work session at the Los Alamos High School library.

    Strategic Assets Coordinator Connie Clark and Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Lisa Montoya presented the leases for board approval at the March 22 meeting.

    Two of the leases were for the Little Valley (L Wing) location on Orange Street, while the third was for a location at the Pueblo Complex on Diamond Drive.

    The two leases on Orange Street — LV1 and LV2 — are leased to Biodidact Community Lab with Los Alamos Makers occupying the space. The two leases will be combined into one lease upon their expiration.

    “Those two were leased separately, so we extended the LV1 lease two months in order to accommodate for when LV2 expires so the district can combine the two leases into one,” Montoya said.

    The Pueblo Complex location is currently a government lease with the Los Alamos National Lab, but will convert to a United States lease to be used for office and related space to support the Department of Energy’s Environment Management Los Alamos Mission.

    In total, the district has four land parcels and nine properties it currently leases with those agreements coming up for renewal at differing times.

  • Maid allegedly assaulted by clerk

    A maid who works at the Holiday Inn Express in Los Alamos is accusing a desk clerk of raping her when she was cleaning a room at the hotel March 10.

    Bryce W. Delano, 30, was arrested March 21 and released that day. The victim picked him out of a photo lineup March 15. Los Alamos Police charged with him criminal sexual penetration in the first degree and false imprisonment. Delano’s preliminary hearing, which will determine if his case is filed in district court, is scheduled for April 27.

    The victim reported the crime to the Los Alamos Police March 13. She claimed that on March 10, Delano allegedly came to talk to her, and asked her questions about sex and her sex life. She allegedly said she had a boyfriend and Delano left, and then came back to the room 15 minutes later.

    She then told police he came in, locked the door and forced her onto a bed. The victim told police that at one point during the encounter, he allegedly put a pillow over her face because he didn’t want to hear her cry.

    After the alleged attack, Delano allegedly said, “We’re both adults, and we know what we were doing, you shouldn’t feel bad about it.”

  • 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.