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LANL water cleanup firm facing questions over San Francisco work

SANTA FE — Part of the corporate team recently awarded a $1.4 billion contract for cleanup of radioactive and hazardous waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory is facing questions over its work on San Francisco’s old Hunters Point Shipyard, a Superfund site.

Tetra Tech, a 50-year-old company, is part of the Tech2 Solutions partnership that will be responsible “for the entire Water Program scope” at Los Alamos, including cleanup of a chromium plume in the aquifer beneath the lab that has spread to near neighboring San Ildefonso Pueblo, says the Tech2 website.

In San Francisco, the Navy is re-examing potentially toxic soils and buildings at the old shipyard, after outside environmental firms hired to check data collected by Tetra Tech found that nearly half of the data were flawed, according to a recent San Francisco Chronicle report.

“In some cases, soil from parts of the property known to be free of contamination was identified as having been gathered from sites that had been used for radiological research,” the newspaper’s report says. The long-running controversy has slowed redevelopment of the 450-acre property for housing and other uses.

The old shipyard formerly was home to a nuclear research lab. Allegations by Tetra Tech whistleblowers first surfaced in 2014, the Chronicle reported. Last year, after an environmental group filed a new federal complaint with statements from former Tetra Tech employees, a company spokeswoman issued a statement that “emphatically” denied allegations of a cover-up of fraud.

The new LANL cleanup contract announced in December by the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management is with a group called Newport News Nuclear BWXT-Los Alamos LLC. It’s for is for a base term of five years with an additional five years in two optional extensions.

Watchdog group Nuclear Watch New Mexico said in a Wednesday news release that awarding the contract to a group including Tetra Tech raises serious questions about DOE’s “due diligence” in reviewing the performance histories of bidding companies

.”This situation shines a light on the cozy DOE contractor system, where every cleanup site has different combinations of the same contractors,” said NukeWatch research director Scott Kovac.

DOE’s Environmental Management office provided this statement:

“The Department of Energy conducted a thorough review of the proposals submitted for the new Los Alamos Legacy Cleanup Contract. DOE closely monitors and evaluates its contractors’ performance to ensure that work is performed safely and efficiently, and will continue to do so with Newport News Nuclear BWXT-Los Alamos LLC.”

The Journal reached out to Tetra Tech for comment Wednesday but did not receive a response.