Los Alamos National Laboratory failed to accurately label drums of liquid waste shipped to a disposal center in Colorado multiple times, according to an email sent to the New Mexico Environment Department. Policy dictates that waste sent to Veolia ES Technical Solutions for disposal must be thoroughly screened and properly documented—identifying the types and amounts of chemicals, pH levels, potential for combustion and whether any radiological material is included. In May, operators in Colorado examined a drum shipped from Los Alamos and determined the pH level was significantly lower than the label indicated. A lower pH level meant the material was more acidic than Los Alamos had recorded, meaning it was more volatile than expected. According to federal and state reports, the lab has consistently violated requirements to accurately document the contents of hazardous waste drums. Veolia has been unable to release any details about this or previous errors due to a confidentiality and nondisclosure agreement between the company and Los Alamos. The lab's spokesman Kevin Roark confirmed the incident, but said, “The Laboratory believes the lower pH value was immaterial to the disposal process.” According to officials, none of the instances at Veolia have involved radioactive materials.
Lawsuit Against PED Goes to Trial
A trial to determine if New Mexico's Public Education Department provided enough funds to meet the needs of students began last week in Santa Fe. The trial consolidates two lawsuits: Martinez v. New Mexico and Yazzie v. New Mexico. New Mexico's Constitution requires the state to provide a sufficient education for its students, but the plaintiffs in the case—a number of families from seven school districts—claim the districts' funding is inadequate and does not meet the requirements. They also assert that the negative impact of the low funds is disproportionately felt by Native Americans, low-income students and students learning English as a second language. The PED's attorney, Jeff Wechsler, told Judge Sarah Singleton in his opening statement that the plaintiffs must prove the “complete failure of the system,” which he says has not happened, and that poor student performance can be blamed on poverty across the state. The trial is expected to last nine weeks.
City Installs New Bike Lanes on Fifth Street
Mayor Richard Berry’s 50-mile activity loop project has transformed an area of Fifth Street in Downtown, introducing a dedicated bike lane. The changes can be found on the west side of Fifth Street, between Marquette and Silver, in the area right next to the curb that used to be reserved for parking. Parking areas have been moved further into the street to make room for the lane. The design—used for many years by other cities around the country—is called a buffered bike lane, and according to city officials, it will provide more protection for cyclists and pedestrians. Albuquerque’s Department of Municipal Development has asked that citizens be patient as drivers adjust to the new configuration.