NMCF to relinquish database activities

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DOE: LANL to take over public training and education for Intellus NM

By The Staff

After eight years of providing public education and outreach related to environmental monitoring information from the Los Alamos National Laboratory site, New Mexico Community Foundation) has been asked by the Department of Energy to relinquish its responsibility as outreach coordinator and database manager of the Intellus NM Project.

DOE notified NMCF on Sept. 18 that, due to financial constraints and uncertainties in DOE Environmental Management’s budget, NMCF would no longer be funded to provide training, education and outreach to the public on behalf of Intellus NM.

Additionally, LANL and the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) are currently negotiating the closure of the 2007 Settlement Agreement and Stipulated Final Order, also known as the Chromium Settlement, which required LANL to turn their environmental data over to an independent manager. The closure of this agreement allows LANL to manage their data without oversight or involvement from a third-party. 

Intellus NM is a new, web-based relational database designed to manage environmental data collected in and around the LANL vicinity. It was launched in April 2012 to replace the original environmental database, RACER. LANL began pursuing the transition to a new environmental database in the fall of 2010 and chose Locus Technologies as their database developers. NMCF was instrumental in laying the groundwork for the new application, and over the past four years, has extensively documented public input and requests for improvements to the RACER tools. Incorporating public feedback, NMCF developed the Intellus NM scope of work, name and branding.

Pete Maggiore, assistant manager, LASO Environmental Projects Office, said in a statement, “The federal government is working hard to identify ways to increase efficiencies and cost savings in all areas of business. Technology allows for the government and private sector to continually implement data management systems that allow for increases in transparency, timeliness, quality and amount of information and user interface. Intellus NM represents such an endeavor. It is a major improvement over its predecessor database, which was called “RACER.” With Intellus, environmental data is loaded into the database automatically. A manual feed of the latest data is not required (like it was with RACER). The automatic feed means data is uploaded the same day, without the need for manual entry of data into the database.

Maggiore said with Intellus and the automatic uploads scientists and the public see the same data. He also said in his statement that the government appreciates the work of the Community Foundation.

“We are looking forward to working with stakeholders on using the database to view and understand what the laboratory is doing to monitor and protect the environment,” Maggiore said.

According to NMCF’s press release, “despite going live in the spring of 2012, Intellus NM is still a work in progress. A prioritized list of Intellus NM improvements has been submitted to LANL for approval and funding but it is unclear if these improvements will be implemented this federal fiscal year.

NMCF supported the transition to Intellus NM because it envisioned the database would provide the community with a more user-friendly, timelier, and more comprehensive point of access to environmental data.

“Without funding and public input to improve the tool, Intellus NM will remain a database that is cumbersome to navigate and from which data and environmental information are difficult to obtain. Input regarding Intellus NM improvements may be sent to LANL’s Intellus coordinator at intellus@lanl.gov.”

The press release stated that in the absence of third-party involvement in this project, as of Oct. 1, LANL will assume responsibility for public outreach activities related to Intellus NM, including public trainings. Karen Schultz Paige (intellus@lanl.gov), Intellus coordinator, has been listed as the LANL contact for inquiries and concerns related to Intellus NM.

More on this issue can be found in future editions of the Los Alamos Monitor.