New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) is expected to propose a civil penalty against Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) for storage of two hazardous waste containers for more than the 90-day storage time limit in central accumulation storage areas and three hazardous waste containers over the one-year storage time in a permitted unit.
LANL notified NMED Feb. 1 of the noncompliance issues and NMED has since determined that LANL has violated the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Management Regulations (20.4.1 NMAC) and the Lab’s Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Hazardous Waste operating permit by failing to request an extension for storage of the 90-day containers until some 20 days past the time limit.
Unofficial LANL sources indicate that the violations and dollars involved in this year’s assessment from NMED are far less than in previous years and that this year’s violations were not operational but merely notification related with shipment of the five containers held up for safety reasons.
“The Laboratory’s constant emphasis on improving our performance in meeting RCRA requirements has been showing a positive trend,” a LANL spokesman said. “That said, we continue to strive for the best possible results to protect the environment, the public and our workforce at Los Alamos.”
With regard to the storage of hazardous waste containers over the one-year storage time limit in a permitted unit, NMED maintains LANL failed to demonstrate storage is “solely for the purpose of accumulating such quantities of hazardous waste restricted from land disposal as necessary to facilitate proper recovery, treatment, or disposal.
In a March 15 letter to Department of Energy Site Office Acting Chief of Staff Manager Pete Maggiore and Los Alamos National Security, LLC. Associate Director for Environment, Safety, Health and Quality Michael Brandt, NMED states that the agency may issue an administrative compliance order immediately or within a specified time period, or assess a civil penalty for any past or current violations of up to $10,000 per day of non-compliance for each violation, or both.
The letter states that NMED also could commence a civil action in District Court for appropriate relief, including a temporary or permanent injunction and any such order may include a suspension or revocation of any permit issued by NMED.
“Due to the nature and severity of the violations listed above, and LANL’s past history of noncompliance with 20.4.1 NMAC, NMED will propose a civil penalty for these violations in the Notice of Proposed Penalty letter, which will follow as a separate, settlement privileged document,” the letter states.
State and Lab officials are expected to discuss penalties proposed by NMED in the coming weeks and it is believed the initial dollar figure will be negotiated down by the time the process wraps up.