Community Groups Go to Court to Clean up LANL
Santa Fe, New Mexico — Citing significant violations of the Clean Water
Act at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), an alliance of nine New
Mexico community organizations and two individuals today filed a lawsuit
against the U.S. Department of Energy and the Los Alamos National
Security, LLC. (a copy is available at www.amigosbravos.org/lanl.php)
This morning at the state capitol building in Santa Fe, the community
groups said it was time for LANL to address the substantial contamination
problems that are migrating off the lab’s property.
“We have joined forces to hold LANL accountable for more than 60 years of
contamination that now threatens our future drinking water supply,” said
Brian Shields of Amigos Bravos, one of the community groups. “Every time
it rains or snows, these contaminants move through our canyons and springs
to the Río Grande. LANL needs to take immediate and effective action to
protect our community’s waters.”
Megan Anderson of the Western Environmental Law Center and legal counsel
for the alliance of groups and individuals, said that the lawsuit was
based on several violations of the Clean Water Act: failure to comply with
water quality standards; failure to conduct adequate monitoring; failure
to comply with reporting requirements; and failure to have effective
pollution control measures in place.
“The result of these failures is that toxic contaminants are migrating to
the Río Grande and to drinking water sources for Santa Fe and
Albuquerque,” said Joni Arends of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety.
“In May, the New Mexico Environment Department reported finding plutonium
in the area of the proposed Buckman Direct Diversion Project, a future
drinking water source for the city.”
The groups say that countless studies by the New Mexico Environment
Department (NMED) and LANL itself show that New Mexico’s future water
supply is being threatened by a number of pollutants, including PCBs at up
to 25,000 times the New Mexico Water Quality Standard protective of human
“We joined this lawsuit because we are concerned about contamination from
LANL impacting downstream and downwind irrigators and farmers” said Harold
Trujillo of the New Mexico Acequia Association. “The Río Grande continues
to be used for fishing and farming all along its length, enabling
dangerous contaminants to get directly into the food chain.”
“It is urgent for rural Northern New Mexico communities downwind of LANL
to acknowledge air as a pathway for water contamination and hold LANL
accountable for toxic and radioactive pollution that blows on a daily
basis into our watershed. We have joined with our downstream communities
in this lawsuit because, we can be sure, whatever LANL is sending downwind
through the air is going to end up in our watershed, our land and our
water,” said Sheri Kotowski from Embudo Valley Environmental Monitoring
“There is no justice if LANL is not held accountable for more than 60
years of knowingly contaminating ancestral water,” added Kathy Sanchez,
Director of Tewa Woman United. “All of us are connected by water. There
are more than 1,400 documented contaminated sites in sacred ancestral
homelands of water-related life presence. That is why we, as tribal women
concerned for all relations, and our children’s future, have joined forces
to hold LANL accountable for violations against water’s natural order-
life affirming water. Purity of water must be returned.”
Clean water is a spiritual and ethical concern,” said Joan Brown of
Partnership for Earth Spirituality. “Water is the Creator’s gift for the
Common Good. Our action today is a moral and ethical stance to invite Los
Alamos National Laboratory and all involved to accountability.”
“El aqua es la vida! We want zero contaminants discharged from LANL, and
we want them to implement Best Management Practices for discharges and
dumping,” said James Maestas of the Don Gabino Andrade Community Acequia
Robby Rodriguez, Executive Director of SWOP, said that the groups expect
the lawsuit would result in LANL honoring its commitments. “LANL has a
budget over $2 billion,” Rodriguez said. “It is inexcusable that they are
failing to clean up their toxic mess, which affects nearby Pueblos and
small towns and cities along the Río Grande. We want Federal and State
regulators to hold LANL accountable. LANL needs to take immediate and
effective action to protect our waters.”
Anderson stated that groups filing the lawsuit hoped that total fines from
prior and on-going violations would be vigorously pursued, paid in full,
and allocated to complete and effective independent monitoring and
remediation of the sites in question to prevent future contamination of
“There’s a lot at stake here. We all have a responsibility to protect the
Rio Grande from further degradation,” said Steve Harris, director of Rio
Organizations and individuals filing the lawsuit are Amigos Bravos,
Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, Don Gabino Andrade Community
Acequia Association, Embudo Valley Environmental Monitoring Group, New
Mexico Acequia Association, Partnership for Earth Spirituality, Río Grande
Restoration, SouthWest Organizing Project, Gilbert Sanchez, Kathy Sanchez,
and Tewa Women United.
A full copy of the complaint can be found at www.amigosbravos.org/lanl.php
Organizations and individuals that jointly filed the lawsuit include:
*Amigos Bravos – Protecting and restoring New Mexico’s rivers since 1988.
*Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety – Protecting all living beings and
the environment from the effects of radioactive and other hazardous
materials now and in the future.
*Don Gabino Andrade Community Acequia Association – An acequia in the
South Valley of Albuquerque concerned with water quality issues and
providing water to small farmers.
*Embudo Valley Environmental Monitoring Group – Focuses on the public and
environmental health and safety issues related to air emissions generated
by LANL activities that affect our watersheds.
*New Mexico Acequia Association – Strengthening our communities by
sustaining ancestral connections to land, water, and culture.
*Partnership for Earth Spirituality – An interfaith group of people
working for care of God’s creation through reflection, education and
*Rio Grande Restoration – “A policy advocacy group dedicated to protecting
the flows of the Rio Grande.”
*SouthWest Organizing Project – Working to empower our communities to
realize racial and gender equality and social and economic justice.
*Gilbert Sanchez – Member of Tribal Environmental Watch Alliance (TEWA)
and a community activist at the Pueblo of San Ildefonso.
*Kathy Sanchez – Director of Tewa Women United and a community activist at
the Pueblo of San Ildefonso caring for Mother Earth.
*Tewa Women United – A civic group empowering women from the Northern New
Western Environmental Law Center, a non-profit, public interest law firm
dedicated to protecting the land, sky, water, wildlife and culture of the
West is representing the community groups and individuals.