LANL Has a History in Santa Fe and It’s Not Good

Editor’s Note: La Jicarita received a phone call and e-mail from Daniel Hernandez, the City of Santa Fe Program Manager working on the Midtown Santa Fe redevelopment answering the two questions I was hoping to include in the article I wrote on December 10 regarding proposals for Midtown. Posted below are the questions and his answers. I’m also posting a comment on the article from Joni Arends, Executive Director of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS), which warrants a broad readership.

1. What can you tell me about the National Nuclear Security Administration’s bid to develop the property?

LANL/NNSA submitted a response to the RFEI [Request For Expressions of Interest] under the Master Developer category. Because of NM procurement law and the confidentiality regulations, we can not divulge information that the Respondent may find proprietary, and to maintain the integrity of the fair and competitive evaluation process to which the City administration is committed. The LANL/NNSA proposal will be evaluated using the criteria set-forth in the RFEI and the Midtown Planning Guidelines, like the other Resondent Submission Packages. You may find the RFEI and the Midtown Planning Guidelines at this link.

2. Has the city conducted public hearings on its request for proposals or “interest” on this property?

Yes, the City engaged various communities and public forums in the summer of 2018, which led to the development of the Midtown Planning Guidelines, which were approved by the Governing Body. These community driven guidelines were the basis for the evaluation process in the RFEI. Also, the City continues to engage in numerous forums, meetings with various sector leaders, and responses to ongoing email inquiries and comments. Furthermore, the City will kick-off a new series of civic engagement activities in Q1 2020, as a way to to continue to both inform and hear from people and their priorities as we move forward with the development of Midtown Santa Fe.


By JONI ARENDS, Executive Director of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety

With respect to LANL’s proposal for Midtown: There are contaminated sites in Santa Fe already from LANL related activities. We don’t need any more. LANL has demonstrated over many decades their patterns and practices of disregard for the health and safety of Santa Fe residents. Below are three examples. There are others, but not as well documented. The three sites are the Eberline site on Airport Road, the Nuclear Laundry on Siler Road, and the Caja del Rio landfill. Please share this information with your friends and family.

1. The abandoned Eberline site on Airport Road. John Dendahl, former Republican NM Chair, was a vocal opponent of Bill Richardson when he was the D3 Congressman, as well as when he was Governor. Dendahl had an important role in Eberline. Here’s a link to Aaron Cantu’s 2017 excellent Santa Fe Reporter article about community concerns about the Eberline site.

Excerpts from the article:

“Until a decade ago, the Eberline plant made radiation detection equipment that it shipped to nuclear facilities all over the world. The plant’s founder, Howard Clayton Eberline, had imagined in the 1950s that Santa Fe would supply the instruments to facilitate the nuclear energy revolution.

“Howard Clayton Eberline, who started off at LANL and was later part of the team that designed and built devices to measure the world’s first hydrogen bomb test, hoped that his new private company would become ‘part of the great adventure that is atomic energy,’ from prospecting to mining, from power reactors ‘to miracles yet unseen.’ When he left the company in 1963, Eberline workers had measured radiation from nuclear explosions at the Nevada nuclear testing site and at the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

“By 1982, The Santa Fe New Mexican described Eberline as the city’s largest private employer. That gave more clout to its already-powerful corporate leadership. John Dendahl, the late descendant of a prominent local family who would later become chairman of New Mexico’s Republican Party, was named president of Eberline Instruments in the 1970s and held prestigious board memberships at the First National Bank of Santa Fe and the Santa Fe Opera Foundation, among others.

“After finding in 2007 that Thermo Fisher failed to maintain adequate records of radioactive material going in and out of the Eberline building, New Mexico’s Environment Department allowed the company to supply radiation monitors to city government and emergency workers around the state in lieu of a $51,000 fine.

“After reviewing the plans to transport the americium [stored at Eberline] out of the area, nuclear energy expert and whistleblower Paul Blanch tells SFR the state’s Radiation Control Bureau appears to have defied strict safety standards established by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A plan of action from the Environment Department shows it was planning to transport the americium in a pickup truck with a boxy steel storage frame.

“ ‘If they just bypassed all the regulations and took it to Los Alamos, it’s not the proper thing to do, but was probably the safest thing to do to get that shit out of Santa Fe,’ Blanch says.

“The reported amount of stored americium was enough to deliver millions of fatal radiation doses via a ‘dirty bomb.’”

2. The Nuclear Laundry – Uni Tech Services Group, Inc. – at 1310 Siler Road.

Nuclear Laundry Dumping Radioactive Material into Santa Fe Sewage System, by Susan Hirshberg, of CCNS (Winter 1996)
Community Celebrates Major Environmental Victory as City of Santa Fe Temporarily Shuts Down “Nuclear Laundry” (May 14, 1996)

Excerpt from the article:

“Because of testimony and documentary evidence that INS [Interstate Nuclear Services] had cheated on previous water analyses and had lied to safety inspectors, CCNS also requested that the HRMB [New Mexico Environment Department’s Hazardous and Radioactive Materials Bureau] require independent water analysis for radioactivity contamination for at least a probationary period and to not allow the facility to operate until the new equipment was in place. The bureau refused this request and instead entered into an agreement with INS before the hearings based on the new license conditions.

“As a result of the pre-hearing deal with INS, the HRMB did not present to the hearing officer the testimony of three former plant employees concerning repeated safety violations at INS. This omission was particularly disturbing because CCNS had brought this evidence to HRMB’s attention and it had been verified by the State investigation. The bureau also did not introduce into evidence testimony of corporate level involvement in intentional safety violations nor some of the test results showing off-site contamination by INS. Throughout the hearings the NMED Bureau worked closely with INS attorneys to try and prevent hearing officer Tito Madrid from learning all the facts of repeated and intentional safety violations at INS.

“As a result, CCNS attempted to play an active role in the license renewal hearings, presenting evidence of violations at INS which the HRMB had withheld from the hearing officer. In the future CCNS will continue its efforts to have HRMB officials or the Attorney General’s office investigate why the HRMB withheld evidence from the hearing officer and tried to prevent citizens and former employees from testifying at these public hearings.

“A recommendation on INS’s license application will be made by Hearing Officer Tito Madrid by mid October. A final decision on the license renewal application will be made by the Secretary of the Environmental Department later this fall.”

The laundry is still there. Their work is limited to preparing LANL workers’ protective clothing for shipment to another site for cleaning. Unfortunately, I don’t have the latest information about this site.

3. The recent disposal of contaminated roofing materials that LANL contractors brought to the Caja del Rio Landfill. The full article is copied below.

“LANL faces state penalties over waste violations,” By Andy Stiny |
Nov 29, 2018

The New Mexico Environment Department is accusing Los Alamos National Laboratory of violating state regulations and its hazardous waste permit by sending tons of construction waste to the Caja del Rio Landfill in Santa Fe and other sites without proper notification and labeling.

“Due to the nature and severity of the violations … and LANL’s past history of noncompliance,” the state agency says in a letter to lab officials dated Nov. 5 — just days after a new contractor took over operations — it is seeking penalties that could include fines of up to $10,000 per day for each violation, as well as a state District Court injunction and revocation or suspension of permits.

Officials from the lab and the Environment Department declined to comment on any settlement amount being discussed.

Along with Caja del Rio, the state agency’s letter says, some of the material from renovation and demolition projects at the lab was sent to the Los Alamos Landfill and to facilities in Albuquerque and Colorado between 2015 and 2017.

A lab spokesman said in an email that out of thousands of hazardous waste containers shipped during that time, four were found to have “previously unreported administrative discrepancies” in documentation and labeling.

“At no time was the public or the environment at risk from hazardous material,” the email said.

“While that record represents well over a 99% success rate,” the email said, “we believe we can and must do better. We are analyzing our waste characterization process to identify process improvements to assist us develop more accurate and complete shipping manifests.”

Still, at least one local public official was irate that the lab’s waste violations were not made public.

Santa Fe County Commissioner Anna Hansen, who represents the district that includes the Caja del Rio Landfill, said she obtained a copy of the Environment Department’s letter from a constituent earlier this week. “I think it’s frightening that nobody knows about this,” Hansen said. “I’m not happy.”

She was concerned about the possibility of contamination from the dumping, she said, adding, “This is a tendency for LANL to think they can do things without being responsible to the citizens of our county.”

In response to Hansen’s criticisms, an Environment Department spokeswoman said in an email that “NMED generally doesn’t issue press releases when it is addressing enforcement matters.”

. . . . .

The New Mexican reported a year ago that Los Alamos saw a significant drop in violations of its state hazardous waste permit in fiscal year 2017, with 25 infractions compared to 100 the previous year.

In 2014, the state levied $36.6 million in penalties against the U.S. Department of Energy and private contractors for a string of violations that led to a radiation leak that shuttered the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Southern New Mexico. An improperly packed waste container from Los Alamos had burst in the underground storage site.

On Nov. 1, a new consortium, the nonprofit Triad National Security LLC, took over operations of the lab from Los Alamos National Security LLC (LANS) following a years-long series of management and safety concerns. Triad members include Battelle Memorial Institute, the Texas A&M University System, and the University of California. The UC system also was a partner in LANS.

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