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Friday, November 28, 2014

Sandia’ s shoddy nuclear landfill poisoning city

Editor,

The political insulation of Sandia National Labs is directly affecting a large population in Albuquerque by permitting the careless disposal of radioactive nuclear waste, contaminating portions of our limited source of fresh water and polluting New Mexico’s soil and air.

Because of chemical leakage and careless nuclear waste disposal, fatal solvents seep into local water supplies. Inadequate sensors bordering the mixed-waste landfill, or MWL, fail to detect groundwater contamination. This is inhumane and should not be permitted.

Sandia National Labs’ MWL is exponentially affecting Albuquerque citizens and New Mexico’s vital resources. The landfill is located approximately five miles southeast of the Albuquerque International Sunport. The infrastructure of schools on Kirtland Air Force Base is located approximately three miles from the dump and Mesa del Sol, a residential development, will be receiving its main source of water from the contaminated aquifer, as will a nature center called La Semilla located just a few miles from the landfill.

The landfill’s unlined pits are filled with radioactive and hazardous nuclear waste, predominantly from researching and engineering nuclear weapons during the Cold War. The MWL site contains 720,000 cubic feet of radioactive and hazardous waste disposed of over a 30-year period in unlined pits and trenches located directly above Albuquerque’s sole source of drinking water, the aquifer.

The groundwater flow goes directly under the MWL containing various fatal chemicals and nuclear discharge. Based on the groundwater flow, the MWL monitoring wells are ineffective because they are located across from the landfill instead of in a location where the groundwater flows through and could be tested for contaminants.

The labs continually bypass local, state and federal laws concerning efficient disposal of toxic waste. Corporate donations have increased nuclear contamination at SNL by funding programs for increased nuclear weapons production. The New Mexico Environment Department has permitted Sandia to leave the waste in place and cover it with dirt as a sufficient method of nuclear waste disposal, despite cancer-causing solvents.

The failure of the Department of Energy and NMED to hold the Labs accountable by means of the Resource Conservation Recovery Act and their environmental degradation and blatant disregard for the citizens, land, air and water of New Mexico, is not morally permissible and is in direct violation of citizens’ personal rights.

The isolation of SNL’s direct involvement in and disregard for the contamination of the groundwater, air quality and soil for half a million people living in the Albuquerque area is unacceptable. The bureaucratic entanglement of checks and balances with institutions essentially disconnects branches involved in implementing legally binding laws. Through preventative measures federally outlined by the RCRA and regionally explained through the Environmental Improvement Board, DOE and NMED need to have effective modes of communication and dedication to imposing these laws on SNL regardless of their political influence.

Without accountability, SNL will continue negligent nuclear-waste disposal and continue to disrupt New Mexico’s environment through careless means. A global composition of nuclear waste accumulated since the Cold War resides here in New Mexico.

Samantha Warren
UNM student