"Since the early 1940s, the Los Alamos National Laboratory (Los Alamos) has conducted experimental research on the development of nuclear weapons and explosive materials. These activities have resulted in the generation and disposal of a variety of hazardous, radioactive, and solid wastes. Los Alamos has disposed of these wastes in septic systems, pits, surface impoundments, trenches, shafts, landfills, and waste piles at the facility. Contaminants such as plutonium, americium, and tritium have been detected in soils and sediments at the facility and in groundwater beneath the facility. In 1998, Los Alamos developed a workplan that established the basis for characterizing the hydrogeologic system beneath the facility and determining whether the concentration of contaminants in groundwater exceeded regulatory limits. Implementation of the workplan required the installation of 32 regional aquifer wells, commonly referred to as characterization wells. In our September 2005 report on 'Characterization Wells at Los Alamos National Laboratory' (DOE/IG-0703), we noted that the use of mud rotary drilling methods during well construction was contrary to specific constraints established in 'Resource Conservation and Recovery Act' guidance. We also noted that muds and other drilling fluids that remained in certain wells after construction created a chemical environment that could mask the presence of radionuclide contamination and compromise the reliability of groundwater contamination data. Considering the results of our prior inspection, we initiated this review to determine if Los Alamos had taken action to improve its characterization well process."
Department of Energy, Office of Inspector General, Office of Audits and Inspections, Report No. INS-L-13-05
U.S. Dept. of Energy, Office of Inspector General: http://www.energy.gov/ig/office-inspector-general/