During its July 25 meeting at Santa Fe Community College, Northern New Mexico Citizens’ Advisory Board members heard from Brenda Bowlby, N3B Los Alamos project manager for the Aggregate Area Soils Remediation Program at Los Alamos National Laboratory on a total of 28 aggregate areas on site that were contaminated over time with past historic use.
Bowlby has been in the environmental regulatory compliance business for more than 27 years and most recently managed environmental remediation and long-term monitoring programs at U.S. Navy bases in Bremerton, Wash. and Barrow, Ala.
Bowlby said the 28 sites are named by their drainages and further combined into campaigns. She said they are grouped by logistics – where they’re located – to help make a methodical approach to clean-up. Ten of the areas have been investigated with no further remediation is anticipated, she said, and several aggregate areas are in progress with partial investigations and some remediation completed.
The end goal of the program is not to have to clean up the contaminated areas anymore but to receive a certificate of completion for the work from the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) and be able to remove each aggregate area from the LANL Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA) Hazardous Waste Facility Permit.
The first step in clean-up of an aggregate area is an “investigation work plan” which involves looking at the site history and determining what N3B needs to look for such as whether uranium was used in the area, or high explosives or beryllium, Bowlby said.
“In the investigative process, we go even beyond what we think was done and we do a vast array of analytic screening. We identify the contaminates of potential concern and conduct field investigations. That work plan is then sent over to NMED for their review, approval and discussion. We make sure what we’re doing makes sense and then we proceed forward to investigation,” she said.
“Then we send our teams out to the field and they collect soil and tuff samples for the work plan. We send the samples to a laboratory to see what’s out there. We review the validated data to see how far out the contamination went vertically and horizontally. Once that is done, if anything that is found to be above the soil screening level we do more work. If it’s below the soil screening levels, we send a report to NMED to see if they confirm our determination and if further work is necessary. A lot of times there’s more work out there. We might not have dug deep enough, we might need to go out farther so it’s a very comprehensive process,” Bowlby said.
She said once that’s done N3B prepares their investigation report where they present all their findings. They meet with NMED and interested parties and share their results to determine if they can to closure. She said N3B currently has two investigation reports completed for Upper and Middle Los Alamos Canyons that are due to NMED by Sept. 28.
FY18-20 campaigns and sites listed by Bowlby:
- Supplemental Investigation Reports Campaign (11 Reports);
- Known Cleanup Sites (Above Soil Screening Levels) Campaign;
- Historical Properties Completion Campaign – Remediation of New Solid Waste Management Unit in Middle Los Alamos Canyon;
- Southern External Boundary Campaign – South Ancho Canyon, Chaquehui Canyon and Lower Water Canyon; and
- Pajarito Watershed Campaign – Twomile Canyon.