Sink Malfunction At LANL Causes Stir With DNFSB

Los Alamos Daily Post

A Los Alamos National Laboratory spokesman told the Los Alamos Daily Post Friday that during the week of March 5, a few gallons of water overflowed from a sink in an administrative area of TA-55 with a small amount eventually settling in the basement rad storage area, which is specifically designed to isolate and contain water intrusions.

He said the system functioned as designed and there were no incidents.

“There was no contamination associated with this water overflow, and it did not occur in an area of the facility where radioactive materials are processed,” he said.

Lab sources say the overflow, which was caused by a restroom faucet that malfunctioned, occurred when a hands-free faucet actuated by a foot pedal failed to turn off as normal. The flow of water into the sink reportedly then overcame a common drain header and about 10 gallons of water flowed out of a nearby safety shower drain and onto the floor.

“Workers responding to the water spill discovered the running faucet, quickly secured it and mopped up the water,” a source said.

All existing drain traps are reportedly being inspected to make sure they are not clogged or semi-clogged and the foot-activated faucets are reportedly being replace with modern faucets actuated by proximity sensors.

The LANL account was in response to a Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board inspector’s report stating that a LANL Plutonium Facility worker left a restroom faucet running, which overflowed and “flooded” an area on the first floor near the aqueous processing rooms.

“The water subsequently leaked into the basement in an area used to store transuranic waste drums. NNSA Field Office personnel are examining whether this result challenges assumptions related to spills of fissile solutions from the first floor and into the basement where large volume geometries are currently uncontrolled,” the report stated.