What should Albuquerque expect from the Sandia National Laboratories’ Mixed Waste Landfill when one considers the Carlsbad Waste Isolation Pilot Plant’s release of radioactive contamination? Planned for decades, WIPP is a $6 billion engineered facility in a salt mine placed one-half mile below the earth’s surface.
The Department of Energy assured the public WIPP was safe for 10,000 years. Then, in February, a salt truck caught on fire. After only 15 years of operation, WIPP twice belched plutonium, americium and heavy metals – contaminating workers, the public and the environment.
In sharp contrast to WIPP, Sandia’s Mixed Waste Landfill is not an engineered facility and is realistically a mixed waste dump. Solvents and other chemicals were mixed haphazardly with radioactive wastes during the dump’s operation from 1959 to 1988 resulting from nuclear weapons activities. At other Sandia sites, the same types of chemicals disposed of in the landfill have contaminated the aquifer. This dump is leaching more than 100 toxic chemicals and radionuclides toward Albuquerque’s drinking water aquifers every day.
Wastes in this lethal dump are in unlined pits and trenches under a compacted dirt cover installed in 2009. Scientists say the dirt cover can be easily breached by plants, insects, water – and humans. A 2006 TechLaw Inc. report to the New Mexico Environment Department, suggested the dirt cover will not remain intact, lacks adequate monitoring for moisture, and has no impermeable liner.