February 4, 2005

Agencies to Monitor Los Alamos Lab

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (AP) -- The Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to provide on-site protections and increased monitoring of contamination at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The lab has piles of hazardous waste. When it rains, storm water flows from more than 1,000 hazardous waste sites, according to the EPA, which signed the agreement with the Department of Energy on Thursday.

Water discharged at the lab has been regulated under a general permit designed for private industry in the United States. But that permit doesn't fit the situation, said Charles Faultry, chief of water enforcement for the Region 6 EPA in Dallas.

Environmental conditions and unique waste concerns at Los Alamos make a custom-designed permit more appropriate, according to the federal agencies.

Based on samples collected at the lab under Thursday's agreement, a new permit will be drafted.

As a result, the state Environment Department will significantly increase surface-water testing at Los Alamos.

"This is an opportunity for us to address water-quality issues and concerns at LANL," said Ed Wilmot, manager of the DOE's Los Alamos office. "How we manage this program is important to all of us and the Los Alamos community."

By March, the state Environment Department, the Energy Department and the University of California, which operates the lab, are expected to agree to a cleanup schedule for environmental contamination at Los Alamos.

Surface water was a problematic piece because New Mexico lacks the authority to enforce water-quality standards at the lab, or anywhere in New Mexico, state Environment Department spokesman Jon Goldstein said.

"New Mexico Environment Department is now one step closer to moving forward with fence-to-fence cleanup of the entire LANL site," said Ron Curry, state Environment Department secretary.


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