Los Alamos May Face Stricter Runoff Regulations

Mar 11, 2015

Many of the urban discharges addressed in the petition to the EPA impact this stretch of the Rio Grande near the White Rock lookout just southwest of Los Alamos.
Credit Amigos Bravos

Should Los Alamos National Labs and Los Alamos County be held to the Clean Water Act standards for stormwater runoff that ends up in the Rio Grande? That’s the question the Environmental Protection Agency is weighing. A public comment period on the matter will begin soon.

Amigos Bravos, a New Mexico organization that works on river water issues, filed a petition with the federal regulator last summer. Rachel Conn, who runs the nonprofit, said they discovered high levels of heavy metals and radioactive contaminants were not coming from toxic industrial sites at LANL but rather from water cascading off of buildings and pavement after storms.

“When it rains, the water picks up all those little particles of contamination,” Conn explained, “and the rainwater goes into our canyons, into the tributaries and eventually into the Rio Grande.”

The EPA could decide in the coming months that LANL and urban pockets within the county will have to start operating under a special permit that requires cleanup of the stormwater runoff.

Both the lab and the county have taken issue with the environmentalists’ petition.