State Environment Dept. files complaint against US Dept. of Energy to speed clean-up of legacy waste at LANL

New Mexico News

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The New Mexico Environment Department reports that it has filed a civil complaint in the First Judicial District Court against the U.S. Department of Energy for failing to progress on the clean up of contamination that was required by the 2016 Compliance Order on Consent at Los Alamos National Laboratory. According to a press release by NMED, the department finds the DOE Los Alamos Field Office’s 2021 Plan was inadequate as a result of a reported lack of significant and appropriate clean up targets for coming years.

“Today we are seeking to terminate the 2016 Consent Order and initiate court-supervised negotiations to renegotiate clean-up terms that protect communities and their environment,” said NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney in a press release. “The Department entered the 2016 Consent Order with high expectations, but almost five years later, our expectations are far from met.

NMED explains that operations at LANL have included nuclear weapon design and testing, high explosives research, development, fabrication, testing, chemical and materials science research, electrical research and development, laser design and development, and photographic processing. The department states that these operations result in waste streams such as hazardous and radiological wastes.

The facility’s clean up of the quantities of the legacy waste was addressed in the 2016 Consent Order. NMED is seeking that LANL completely addresses the issues in the dispute resolution statement of claim that creates a vigorous schedule for clean up of legacy contamination, termination of the 2016 Consent Order, court supervised negotiations to arrange terms of a new consent order, and a civil penalty of $333,000 for the DOE’s lack of compliance with the agreed upon process in the 2016 order.

The department reports that it has attempted to settle these issues through the mandated dispute resolution process that started in October 2020, but according to an NMED press release, the parties were unable to come to an agreement on a plan. The dispute resolution process under the 2016 Consent Order ended on January 22, 2021.

NMED states that the department will continue to follow the matter to make sure there is a timely clean-up of legacy contamination.

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