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State Finds Contaminates In Los Alamos Well

Jan 11, 2003 | AP

Contaminants have been found in a monitoring well at Los Alamos National Laboratory, according to the state Environment Department.

The well is located in Mortandad Canyon, about 1½ miles from Los Alamos and a half-mile from the nearest municipal drinking well.

The Environment Department, in a statement issued Friday, said the sample was taken 500 feet below the surface and about 300 feet above the regional aquifer from which Los Alamos draws its drinking water.

Department officials identified the contaminants as tritium, nitrate and perchlorate.

The contaminants have been previously detected in the regional aquifer at levels below drinking water standards mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

According to the Environment Department, the level of nitrate found in the well when the sample was taken in June was 20 percent above the EPA standard.

The tritium was slightly below the minimum, but the perchlorate was found at a level many times the EPA's proposed standard for the chemical, the department said.

According to the department, high levels of nitrates can cause the rare and sometimes fatal blue baby syndrome in infants as well as increase the possibility of diabetes in children.

Perchlorate is an chemical used in rocket fuel and other explosives. Studies have linked the chemical to disorders of the thyroid gland.

Tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, is used for a number of processes at the lab. It emits low-energy beta radioactivity so that even a sheet of paper can shield a person from exposure.

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