LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL LABORATORY MONITORING
The Los Alamos office of the DOE Oversight Bureau monitors a variety of environmental media at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to assess the potential impacts of past and present activities.
General Environmental Monitoring
The DOE Oversight Bureau provides verification and validation of projects conducted by Los Alamos National Security LLC (LANS) to remediate environmental and human hazards from legacy waste and to monitor current activities for safe practices.
In 2014-2015, the Bureau conducted a special study to characterize polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) concentrations in urban and other non-LANL stormwater runoff to provide knowledge of PCBs and potential urban/other-derived contributions to stormwater runoff in/around LANL.
Dylan Boyle collects a sample from the Rio Grande
The DOE Oversight Bureau conducts independent continuous air monitoring to evaluate the presence of selected radioactive particles and tritium in the ambient air near LANL. Ambient air is sampled with continuously running, low-volume air samplers drawing air through particulate filters and silica gel cartridges. The program also allows for emergency ambient air monitoring for releases related to demolition and decommissioning activities and/or emergencies like forest fires.
The DOE Oversight Bureau maintains five air stations which are co-located with LANL AIRNET perimeter monitoring stations. Additionally, the Bureau maintains two mobile solar-powered air-monitoring trailers that can be deployed for emergency monitoring.
Roz Sereda and David Atencio collecting a particulate filter sample
Direct Penetrating Radiation
The DOE Oversight Bureau continuously monitors direct penetrating (DPR) radiation, or gamma radiation, in the environment at LANL and in the vicinity for LANL-sourced or ambient gamma. The purpose of this project is to determine whether ambient gamma radiation on or near LANL is equal to background levels and to provide independent verification for LANL-directed monitoring. The DOE Oversight Bureau DPR stations are co-located with LANL stations. Regional stations are located at the Northern New Mexico College and the Santa Fe Booster Station to account for the neighboring communities of Española and Santa Fe, respectively.
Jaben Richards collecting a DPR sample
Drinking Water Monitoring
The DOE Oversight Bureau conducts supplemental and verification sampling of Los Alamos County, City of Santa Fe, Santa Clara Pueblo, and Pueblo de San Ildefonso production wells. Generally, the analytes are substances not addressed under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Major contaminants of concern for all drinking water wells include radionuclides, chromium and other metals, perchlorate, tritium, 1,4-dioxane, high explosive compounds, and nitrate. Drinking water wells are also being monitored for pharmaceutical compounds. Additionally, drinking water wells in Los Alamos County are currently being investigated for vulnerability to chromium contamination.
Megan Green and Steve Yanicak collecting a water sample to be analyzed
for metals from the City of Santa Fe Buckman Well Field
The DOE Oversight Bureau conducts verification and supplemental sampling of the LANL regional aquifer and intermediate zone groundwater. Major contaminants of concern include chromium, perchlorate, tritium, 1,4-dioxane, high explosive compounds, and nitrate, which are consistently detected in perched-intermediate zones and the regional aquifer within specific watersheds.
A chromate plume occurs in perched-intermediate zones and the regional aquifer beneath two (2) watersheds on LANL property. The DOE Oversight Bureau samples numerous monitoring wells and several supply wells for chromium and other contaminants to determine the nature and extent of the chromium plume within and beyond LANL property.
The Bureau also conducts sampling of 25 groundwater springs located off-site from LANL in White Rock Canyon along the Rio Grande.
David Atencio and Dylan Boyle collecting a groundwater sample from Spring 3AA in White Rock Canyon
The DOE Oversight Bureau conducts watershed monitoring of stormwater flows in the Pajarito Plateau with the ultimate goal of characterizing off-site transport of contaminants. This purpose of this project is to assess the water quality downstream of LANL property, including onto and through lands of the Pueblo de San Ildefonso and ultimately into the Rio Grande. Additional focus is on watershed-scale post-fire and fire-related flood monitoring in and around LANL and along the Rio Grande.
The Bureau also conducts cooperative watershed monitoring with the Pueblo de San Ildefonso and Buckman Direct Diversion. Data collected at the Buckman Direct Diversion is used to characterize the migration of contaminants entrained in stormwater run-off as they are transported downstream from LANL property.
Staff installing an automated sampling system in Pueblo Canyon
The DOE Oversight Bureau conducts on-going sampling of stormwater discharges from solid waste management units and areas of concern for compliance with the LANL Individual Stormwater Permit. The Bureau evaluates LANL’s implementation of best management practices, which are intended to reduce contaminant transport.
The Bureau also conducts on-going sampling of National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) outfalls and performs outfall closure verification. The focus is on stormwater management assessment at construction and environmental restoration and remediation projects.
The Bureau verifies that LANS LLC has proper spill action plans and provides closeout assessment and recommendations. Environmental samples are collected at/of/after any unpermitted discharges (spills) that have the potential to affect biological receptors, groundwater resources, and/or receiving waters of the United States.
David Atencio installs a single stage sampler below a stormwater control feature
Biota and Terrestrial Monitoring
The DOE Oversight Bureau conducts annual sampling of fish tissue in the Rio Grande and reservoirs. This project attempts to identify biological impacts of LANL-derived contaminants on the aquatic biota in these receiving waters; this data is used by other agencies to develop fish consumption advisories.
The Bureau also conducts water quality assessments of LANL-area streams utilizing benthic macroinvertebrate population sampling. Macroinvertebrate populations are long-term indicators of the chemical, biological, and physical health of flowing waters. The number and diversity of species of macroinvertebrates reflect water quality stressors and/or water quality trends.
Megan Green collecting macroinvertebrate samples in American Spring
The DOE Oversight Bureau conducts a long-term study to characterize regional polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) concentrations in both wet and dry atmospheric deposition. This will provide baseline knowledge of global PCBs and the potential contribution to stormwater runoff in/around LANL. The DOE Oversight Bureau currently monitors precipitation/deposition at locations at two (2) National Park Service locations: Bandelier National Monument and Valles Caldera National Preserve.
David Atencio and Jaben Richards collecting precipitation samples at Bandelier National Monument