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Los Alamos Protects Environment by Disposing of Purged Well Water, Industrial Materials

Published: February 02, 2021

EM crews at Los Alamos National Laboratory empty purged well water into a truck for offsite disposal.

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. – The EM Los Alamos Field Office (EM-LA) and cleanup contractor N3B have been shipping hundreds of containers of purged well water and other materials from sites across Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) for offsite disposal in recent months.

Since September, crews have shipped more than 211,000 gallons of purged well water and drilling fluids, along with nearly 100 cubic yards of petroleum-contaminated soil and run-of-the-mill industrial materials linked to past LANL operations. Those materials include residual drill cuttings and pipes leftover from installing wells.

The purged well water is stagnant water removed from monitoring wells before sampling — a process that ensures samples are representative of actual aquifer conditions, including potential contamination.

With about 260,000 gallons of the well water stored in tanks across LANL sites, crews found a lack of available holding tanks that could impact cleanup operations, especially where EM-LA operates a treatment system for chromium-contaminated groundwater beneath LANL.

Shipment of the well water began with about 32,000 gallons, or eight truckloads, leaving Mortandad Canyon each week.

Other materials being dispositioned include hazardous preservatives once used to safeguard stormwater samples during transport to analytical laboratories, in addition to low-level radiological waste, such as pit liners used during well installation to contain drill cuttings with trace levels of man-made radionuclides.

“Along with operations being impeded if we didn’t remove these materials, their disposition was critical to upholding our environmental stewardship mission,” said Erik Loechell, a program manager with N3B. “We don’t want that waste getting into the environment.”

The materials are slated for shipment for offsite disposal by August this year. About 170 cubic yards of solid waste and 30,000 gallons of well water are also scheduled for disposal by August.

Prior to shipment, the materials are being stored in safe configurations, with solid waste primarily kept in lined and sealed containers and well water stored in tanks routinely monitored for structural integrity.

-Contributor: Kate Keenan

-Source: EM Update Newsletter

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