Toxic waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory continues to enter the waters of the Rio Grande watershed—including drinking water shared by tribal communities, Santa Fe, Espanola Valley, Albuquerque, Los Alamos, and other surrounding communities.
In the early 1990s, the Department of Energy (DOE) identified over 2,100 unlined dump sites at LANL containing harmful toxins including:
- PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenlys) – industrial chemicals banned in 1977 that are known to cause cancer, damage to the thyroid, liver, and stomach, impair reproduction, cause birth defects, change the immune system, and alter behavior in animals.
- Gross Alpha Radiation – Known to cause cancer, especially when inhaled or ingested.
- Heavy metals and radionuclides, such as plutonium, tritium, chromium-6, mercury, arsenic, copper, silver, uranium, and zinc.
- Industrial chemicals such as 1,4-dioxane, benzo-a-pyrene, and perchlorate.
These toxins readily bind to soil, and each time there is a rainstorm or snowstorm, they are washed into the many canyons on LANL property. From the canyons, the toxins flow into wetlands, streams, rivers, and to groundwater. Fast-moving toxins have reached the Rio Grande in a matter of years, traveling from unlined dumps to springs that flow to the river. When disturbed by stormwater, forest fires, or human activity, toxins are also released into the air and enter the water of downwind and downstream communities.
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