AP NEWS

Hazardous waste found under housing site in New Mexico

March 17, 2020 GMT

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Low-level radioactive waste was found buried on land in New Mexico that the U.S. Energy Department had transferred to Los Alamos County, stalling construction of an affordable housing project northwest of Santa Fe, officials said.

The state Environment Department ordered the federal agency to provide more information about the waste, discovered last month up to 12 feet (3.6 meters) underground at a former Los Alamos National Laboratory site, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported Monday.

The Energy Department has supplied hundreds of documents to the state department’s Hazardous Waste Bureau in response to the order.

“We are currently investigating and characterizing the waste located at the site to determine the extent of the contamination,” Energy Department managers said, adding that the waste was moved to another site for analysis.

The state Environment Department has expressed concern over the contamination and “potential threat to human health and the environment,” said Kevin Pierard, the department’s Hazardous Waste Bureau chief.

More than 70 affordable housing units were expected to be built by the end of the year on the site, along with 60 units of senior affordable housing next year, officials said.

The county received the 70-acre (28-hectare) parcel in 2018 that is now being developed and federal departmental officials had said was clean, County Manager Harry Burgess said.

Watchdog group Nuclear Watch New Mexico has expressed concern about waste being discovered at a construction site that state and federal agencies had deemed clean.