NMED Investigates Misplaced Containers At Lab

Los Alamos Daily Post

The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) is actively pursuing the matter of two containers of hazardous waste – one containing a quarter-gallon and the other a gallon – that were overpacked into a 55-gallon waste container in late January at Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Area L.

A Department spokesperson said Wednesday afternoon that upon completion of its investigation, the NMED will “proceed accordingly”.

A March 19 letter from Department of  Energy Permitting and Compliance Manager Karen Armijo and LANS Division Leader Benjamine Roberts to NMED stated that during a pre-transportation inspection Jan. 30 it was discovered that the physical location of two one-gallon poly hazardous waste containers was “not consistent with the operating record’s inventory report”.

“Line management was notified of the missing containers and all waste movement at Area L was paused while preliminary searches and wall-to-wall inventory ensued,” the letter stated.

Feb. 2, LANL notified NMED’s Hazardous Waste Bureau by phone of the situation stating that following an extensive search and investigation, it was discovered that the two containers were “overpacked” into a 55-gallon waste container at the permitted storage unit at Area L in TA-54.

Listed as being the overpacked items were a .25 gallon of Loctite Ablestik 2902 and a gallon of Conathane. Loctite Ablestik 2902 is a silver-filled epoxy recommended for electronic bonding and sealing applications made of refined pure silver and epoxy that is free of solvents, copper and carbon additives. Conathane is a two-component system that is used for molding and potting electrical assemblies that are exposed to extreme thermal changes.

The letter to NMED said the two items were erroneously overpacked into a 55-gallon drum without line management authority and that it was determined that personnel did not follow the approved procedure for the process, didn’t properly document the overpacking operations and didn’t update the Waste Compliance Tracking System to show the two items had been overpacked.

Proposed corrective actions to prevent reoccurrence were listed as; placing tamper-indicating devices on all waste containers received at Area L; conducting weekly wall-to-wall inventory of all containers stored at Area L; and providing additional field training to new shipping and packaging procedure.

A LANL spokesman told the Los Alamos Daily Post Wednesday afternoon that prior to this year, hazardous waste compliance inspections occurred weekly at a minimum, and daily when waste was moved, manipulated, added or removed from Area L.

“As part of our compensatory measures, workers will conduct a weekly wall-to-wall inventory of waste stored at Area L,” he said.