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State, lab work out deal for safety violations

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Transport permits > LANL is waiting for permits to be approved to move the toxic waste

By Tris DeRoma

The New Mexico Environment Department has granted the Los Alamos National Laboratory temporary relief from fines for storing 13 waste containers at the laboratory beyond their storage limit date at Tech Area 54 Area L.

NMED was first notified of the violations by LANL when lab officials contacted the state department by phone Nov. 8 to notify them of two containers they found that were beyond the storage limit. The containers contained trace amounts of high-explosives waste.

Eleven more containers stored in the same area were eventually included in the report.

For now, the lab will not be penalized for the delay. The penalties for the 13 violations could have included a $10,000 a day for each violation.  

Lab officials asked for the extension because they can’t transport the containers until they receive a permit from the United States Department of Transportation.

“NMED is continuing to work with LANL to resolve the Notice of Violation issued by the Department on Dec. 17, 2018,” NMED Spokeswoman Maddy Hayden said.

“NMED approved LANL’s December 2018 request for an extension to store the drums until U.S. Department of

Transportation requirements for the drums to be moved to a disposal site are met.”

Under the extension, LANL must transport the waste by July 31.

The lab has agreed to provide NMED with quarterly progress reports on March 31 and June 30 about its success in obtaining the permit.

“We concur with the state’s findings on this matter, and are actively looking at ways to improve the Lab’s recordkeeping processes to ensure that we provide accurate and complete information to our regulators and state and local officials,” a lab spokesman said about the issue.

In a Dec. 17 letter sent by New Mexico Hazardous Waste Bureau Chief John Kieling to the lab’s new contractor, Triad, Kieling said further action may be taken.

“Please be aware that the extension, while authorizing the extended storage for waste containers does not relieve LANL of its duties related to the proper management of that waste, nor does it create a waiver of NMED’s enforcement authority related to the underlying cause that necessitated the need for an extension,” Kieling said.