Los Alamos National Laboratory

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Environmental Remediation program completes legacy mercury cleanup near Smith's Marketplace

Los Alamos National Laboratory performed a high-angle canyon-side cleanup on U.S. Department of Energy property just south of Smith’s Marketplace.
May 1, 2015
A telescoping crane hoists a spider excavator over Los Alamos Canyon before placing it on the canyon slope to excavate historically contaminated soil.

In ongoing efforts to reduce the Laboratory's historical footprint, Los Alamos National Laboratory's Environmental Remediation program removed 160 cubic yards of legacy mercury-contaminated soil from Los Alamos Canyon.


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To reduce its historical footprint, Los Alamos National Laboratory recently completed a soil cleanup at one of the the few remaining legacy sites on the steep slope side of Los Alamos Canyon. 

In collaboration with experts from contractor TerranearPMC, the Laboratory’s Environmental Remediation program used a specialized telescoping crane and spider excavator to remove from the rugged canyon side 160 cubic yards of mercury-contaminated soil that derived from Manhattan Project and early Cold War era operations at former Technical Area 32 (TA-32).

“During the 1940s and 1950s, there was no understanding of the consequences associated with these types of releases,” said Dave McInroy, director for the Environmental Remediation program. “The complexity of this job demonstrates the Lab’s commitment to remedy all historical indiscretions.”  

The removed soil was placed in waste bags, lifted from the slope, loaded onto flatbeds and driven to a waste storage area at TA-21 on DOE property where the final waste characterization was completed. The waste is now being prepared for shipment to an appropriate and licensed disposal facility.

After results of the excavation sampling confirmed that the human health and environmental risk at the site had been addressed, the team restored the site.

“Through careful planning and safety oversight, and utilizing technical and operational experts, we've fully addressed the risk at this site and consider the fieldwork complete and a success,” said Todd Haagenstad, project manager for the Environmental Remediation program.

Read the full news release.

Read a fact sheet (pdf) about this cleanup.

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Crews installed turf reinforcement mat and erosion control measures to restore the project site after removing the historically contaminated soil from former TA-32.

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A worker fills a concrete bucket with clean soil designated to backfill the excavation hole after crews removed 160 cubic yards of historically contaminated soil from former TA-32.

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A worker directs a crane to place a waste bag containing historically contaminated soil on a flatbed for transportation to Technical Area 21 where the waste will be characterized and stored before final disposition at a licensed facility.

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A spider excavator prepares to remove historically contaminated soil from the slope side of Los Alamos Canyon.

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Crews build an access road to transport equipment to the project site of former TA-32.