Santa Fe, New Mexican, Saturday, January 24, 2015
WHITE ROCK — For years, workers at Los Alamos National Laboratory dumped canisters, drums and other containers of liquid chemical waste into shafts on a mesa bordering this small town near the birthplace of the atomic bomb. The containers leaked, creating a plume of toxic chemical vapor that has been seeping through tiny pores in soil and volcanic rock in a slow march toward regional groundwater and the Rio Grande.
A citizens advisory board approved a proposal in 2010 for the lab to clean up the plume by releasing the vapors into the air. The proposal presented to the board included using carbon filters to collect most of the contaminants. The lab would then ship the filters to a toxic waste dump in Utah.
But the cleanup began recently with the lab releasing the gases directly into the air without the filters. The state’s Environment Department approved the change without public notice. The lab and the state say a public hearing was not needed because the amount of pollutants that would be released into the air falls within the limits allowed by the lab’s clean air permit, which covers its entire 40-square-mile property.
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