Los Alamos National Laboratory making progress in Groundwater Protection Program

o understanding how contaminants move with the groundwater and how well monitoring samples represent groundwater as a whole. Geochemistry also can shed light on the pathways groundwater and contaminants travel through.

By and large, however, LANL scientists still lack detailed knowledge that is needed to predict flow paths beneath the surface, the report says. Plus, there is a lack of understanding of pathways between watersheds. LANL should add a sitewide perspective to its future groundwater monitoring plans. The laboratory also should drill more wells in and between canyons to increase the area of the regional aquifer to be monitored.

Data quality issues should be addressed, too. DOE's site office at LANL should ensure that laboratory administrators and site regulators agree on how to compile and report data from groundwater monitoring samples. Moreover, the laboratory should do a better job of describing to both scientific and public audiences uncertainties about contamination sources, pathways, and how reliably contaminants can be detected at very low levels. Greater openness among both LANL officials and the area's stakeholders about such uncertainties could improve the quality and transparency of the program, the report says.

Scientific peer review of LANL's work could also help address concerns about how drilling and other activities related to the installation of monitoring wells could alter the natural conditions around sampling points, and to support monitoring efforts in the future. LANL should conduct geochemical research on contaminant interactions, as well as other studies that would support plans for monitoring specific areas of the site, the report says. Peer review of this work could help substantiate findings by LANL scientists and foster greater public confidence in LANL's ability to protect the site's groundwater.


Contact: William Skane
The National Academies

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