New Mexico: More wells needed to gauge uranium plumes

November 11, 2019 GMT

MILAN, N.M. (AP) — More wells are needed to measure uranium plumes in a major aquifer in western New Mexico, state environmental officials said

The state Environment Department is asking federal authorities to collaborate to ensure accurate measurement of a plume of uranium contamination leaving the Bluewater Disposal Site, the Gallup Independent reports .

State officials are concerned the full nature of the plume within the San Andres-Glorieta aquifer has not been defined because of the lack of a comprehensive network of monitoring wells.

Kurt Vollbrecht, manager of the Environment Department’s Mining Environmental Compliance Section, said the U.S. Department of Energy maintains control over groundwater resources at the former uranium mill site but does not have authority over impacts to groundwater quality outside the site boundary.

Vollbrecht outlined the state’s concerns in an October letter to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and to Bernadette Tsosie, manager of the Bluewater site for the Energy Department’s Office of Legacy Management.

Tsosie said the path of the San Andres-Glorieta aquifer plume is 2 miles (3 kilometers) north of the nearest drinking water supply well.

The underground water supply is part of the only regional aquifer capable of yielding large amounts of water to wells.

The Energy Department has been evaluating the impact of high-volume pumping wells in the San Andres-Glorieta aquifer.

Tsosie sent a status report to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in March and stated that uranium plumes in the San Andres- Glorieta and alluvial aquifers appear to be “essentially stable.”

Aside from the lack of a comprehensive monitoring network, the state Environment Department is concerned about the questionable construction of the existing wells that were evaluated for the report.

The state is recommending the addition of at least four to six wells to better define the extent of groundwater impacts from the Bluewater site, formerly operated by Anaconda Minerals Co., a division of Atlantic Richfield Co. The 3,300-acre (1,335-hectare) uranium mill operated from 1953 to 1982.


Information from: Gallup Independent, http://www.gallupindependent.com