Official rebuts claims

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Lab: Katzman addresses concerns raised by activists

By John Severance

Second in a series
LANL Water Stewardship manager Danny Katzman said he was surprised two weeks ago when a watchdog group made claims about groundwater monitoring at the lab.

Katzman was in attendance for the Espanola Basin Technical Working Group a couple of weeks ago at Santa Fe Community College, making another presentation on the post-fire effects on the Los Alamos Canyon storm water.

“I was a little surprised to see this presented,” Katzman said of the LANL groundwater protection practices presentation made by geologist Robert Gilkeson and Joni Arends. “The material that he (Gilkeson) presented was at the center of discussion years ago. We have come a long way since that information was presented. I was looking for some kind of new information, but there just wasn’t any.”

Katzman then addressed the 2007 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report that stated, “Many if not all of the (33) wells drilled into the regional aquifer under the Hydrogeologic Workplan appear to be compromised in their ability to produce water samples that are representative of ambient groundwater for the purpose of monitoring.”

“The lab works with the New Mexico Environment Department and we rely on their review,” Katzman said. “The report they are referring to is outdated. We have added many new wells since 2007 to our various networks.

“When we started the work plan, the wells that went into the plan, they were not drilled with the principal intent for being a long-term monitoring network. We drilled them to get data so we could build a more comprehensive network.”

Katzman said there have been 40 or 50 wells built into the various networks since 2007 and there are now 73 wells in the regional aquifer.

And the LANL program manager said it costs about $2 million to dig one well.

Katzman said there is a network of wells at TA-54 and TA-16.

“There are wells assigned to the chromium issue,” Katzman said. “We are constantly focusing on each area and we continually address questions that come up.”

Gilkeson and Arends made the following claims.

• The unreliable characterization wells are now used as reliable monitoring wells for remedy decisions in the NMED “Cleanup” Order. The attempt to rehabilitate some of the characterization wells was not successful.  Replacement of the characterization wells and the new monitoring wells drilled under the “Cleanup” Order is needed because: (1) the screened zones were contaminated with large amounts of organic and bentonite clay drilling additives, (2) the wells were not installed along groundwater flow paths from the dumps, (3) the wells were not installed at locations close to the dumps, and (4) the wells were installed in “tight zones” and not in the permeable aquifer zones where the groundwater contamination is expected.

• There is inadequate knowledge of the direction and speeds of groundwater travel at the waste dumps because the careless drilling operations did not locate the water table or correctly locate and install the monitoring wells.

• “In the area down gradient from MDA G, the direction of the regional aquifer flow is believed to be dominantly towards the southeast based on regional water-table levels and maps.” But the data and flow maps clearly demonstrate the direction of flow is to the northeast to the Pueblo de San Ildefonso and further to the Santa Fe Buckman drinking water wells. There are no reliable monitoring wells for groundwater contamination from MDA G.

Katzman said that these claims just are not true.

“There is no contamination of any of the wells and there has not been any,” Katzman said. “We constantly monitor and there have been many new wells drilled to supplement various networks and we are constantly making improvements to those networks.

“Some of the early wells that they were talking about were installed so we could get a good sense of the groundwater. We knew they would have to be supplemented. When we learn of something new in a new area, we investigate and we address the problem if there is one.

“All of those points are simply unfounded and there is no basis for saying any of those comments. We have a very extensive monitoring system that looks at everything.”

Katzman said the lab works in compliance with NMED.

On Friday, NMED spokesperson Jim Winchester said, “LANL has been directed to install several additional regional aquifer wells. Some of those wells will likely be installed by the end of 2013. Extensions until 2014 have been granted for the installation of at least three regional aquifer wells (including two at TA-54) and one intermediate perched zone well.”

Katzman said, “We bring our technical best to the table and we use NMED as a sounding board. They make their judgments and we work with them. We come up with the best possible data to monitor the wells and we also have some external people who review our sites. They come away impressed.”

Katzman said the outside reviewers were from the DOE’s Savannah River Site.

“They did an outside review and we addressed their groundwater questions,” Katzman said. “It was not a surprise that some of the first wells we built did not make the cut. Back then, we were in a midstream review. We didn’t have a fully established network like we have now.

“At the same time, we know our work is not done yet. We are constantly evaluating and if we have to address more issues, we will.”