LOS ALAMOS — Los Alamos National Laboratory on Friday reported millions of dollars in damages to environmental monitoring stations around the property, due to recent heavy rain and flooding.
Dave McInroy, the lab’s program director for environmental corrective actions, described last week’s rainfall at the Northern New Mexico as an epic event.
“”We received more than 7 and a half inches of rain in a four-day period and more than an inch and a half in one hour on Sept. 13. None of our recorded history has shown anything like this,” McInroy said during a briefing Friday.
The floods that washed through the area damaged three-quarters of the access roads to the canyons that cut across lab property. A number of the lab’s automated stormwater samplers were wiped out, and floodwaters eroded into monitoring wells and other infrastructure.
Officials said the force of the water bent steel and broke chains that had been anchoring the samplers to concrete.
Workers have been able to bring online two of the three monitoring stations that support Santa Fe’s public water utility.
Although a large amount of sediment moved down the canyons, McInroy said the risk to the environment or people is extremely low.
The lab in the coming weeks will be collecting samples of sediment deposits to assess whether there have been any changes to the conditions in the canyons due to the flooding. The results will be posted to an online public database, officials said.
The lab has notified the New Mexico Environment Department and the Environmental Protection Agency that required monitoring work has been interrupted because of the weather. McInroy said lab officials are trying to determine when the work can resume.