Kirk Lachman / Courtesy photo
BY MAYOR O’NEILL
Kirk Lachman, director of the Los Alamos Department of Energy and Environmental Management field office for almost a year, is retiring next month. He discussed his time at the Los Alamos National Laboratory with the Los Alamos Reporter. With the COVID-19 pandemic underway when Lachman arrived in Los Alamos, the recent interview was the first direct interaction with Lachman and most of what has been reported about his time in Los Alamos has been gleaned from presentations on the Northern New Mexico Citizens Advisory Council and most recently on the Los Alamos County Council.
Lachman worked in private industry for the first six years of his career, working in aerospace for Texas Instruments and then for Ball Aerospace. By mid-June, he will have been a federal civil servant for 30 years,
“New Mexico is a beautiful state and I have enjoyed my time here, but I have lived in Las Vegas, Nevada longer than any other place in my career and it is kind of my home. my wife and I, so that’s where I’m going. We have our retirement home there where my wife lives now, so that’s my plan, ”he said. “I can’t wait to reunite with my family and friends after COVID, to attend concerts and sporting events again, and of course my wife and I have travel plans for our retirement. We have planned for the next few years.
When asked how Los Alamos compared to some of the other DOE sites he’s worked on, Lachman said that while LANL’s EM office is smaller than other offices he has worked at, it’s still a very complex work environment and there are many competing demands in the diverse community of stakeholders.
“There are more similarities than differences across the complex between the field offices, but with COVID it’s hard to get a handle on everything because everything has been different since I’ve been here in Los Alamos. After nearly 30 years now, one thing is consistent across all field offices, and that is the pride workers take in the work they do, both federal contractors and staff, ”he said. declared. “All of my colleagues work very hard and they know that the work they do is very important to their local community as well as to the nation. I have been very fortunate to work with so many talented people throughout my career.
The reporter asked Lachman if he was disappointed that mediation with the New Mexico Department of the Environment on the milestones for the consent order was unsuccessful. NMED filed a complaint against the DOE in February for failing to make progress in cleaning up the contamination, as required by the LANL Consent Order. NMED alleges that EM-LA’s plan for fiscal 2021 was inadequate due to “a lack of substantial and appropriate clean-up targets for years to come.” The federal fiscal year began on October 1 and no agreement was reached following mediation.
“We’re all looking for the same thing. We want safe, effective and efficient cleanup of old waste in Los Alamos. Our goal for me and the EM-LA team as well as N3B is that we try to ensure that the Los Alamos cleanup proceeds safely and efficiently with the best use of the available funding that we have, ”said Lachman.
He said this applies not only to the scope of environmental remediation under the consent ordinance, but also to the management of legacy transuranium waste, including shipments to the pilot project. Waste Isolation Facility (WIPP) in Carlsbad, where Lachman served before Los Alamos.
“We have extensive groundwater and storm monitoring jobs all operated by our contractor throughout the lab. About 45 percent of our work is non-prescription work. Sometimes it gets lost there. It always helps in cleaning up the legacy in Los Alamos and it’s part of our budget. To achieve this, we like to set milestones and goals for risk-informed consent ordinance while supporting other waste management activities as part of our cleanup efforts here in Los Alamos, ”he said. -he declares.
Asked what he sees as the main issues EM-LA faces with cleaning up in Los Alamos, Lachman replied that there are always surprises in the workplace or new discoveries.
“These have the potential to impact what we do and the pace of our overall cleaning path. We clearly experienced this at DP Road in early 2020 and it certainly affected where I allocated part of the budget that Congress allocated to us, ”he said. “What’s important is to continue to build relationships and communicate with stakeholders and the regulator and tell them what we’re doing, especially when we come across these new findings.”
Lachman said EM-LA is really lucky to have such strong support for the cleanup mission and that he and his team are grateful for it.
“The key to remember is that the people who work on this live in Los Alamos or Santa Fe or Albuquerque or Espanola – the surrounding communities. We all want to protect our communities, we want workers to be safe, and we are very interested in protecting the environment as part of our cleanup activities. It’s important to all of us – federal staff and contractors, ”he said.
The reporter asked Lachman what mechanisms he plans to implement to educate the community about upcoming cleanup decisions, excluding presentations to elected officials where there is no possibility of interaction with regular community members. surrounding areas of LANL. Lachman said the good news is that in June, EM-LA’s quarterly environmental management cleanup forums will resume. While the quarterly NMED community meetings continued to be held virtually during the pandemic, it has been over a year since EM-LA held theirs.
“As with previous cleanup forums, the public will have the opportunity to engage directly with EM-LA and N3B as part of their legacy cleanup mission at LANL. We want to hear from the audience and look forward to this discussion. We are still working on the COVID issue to make it happen, but we wanted to resume these meetings, ”he said.
Lachman noted that there is more than one avenue for engaging with EM-LA on the cleanup in Los Alamos.
“The consent order provides part of that. Public participation is built into the Consent Order and once the NMED selects a proposed cleansing remedy, the NMED initiates a public comment period and this gives the public an opportunity to comment on the proposed remedy before it is released. ‘a final decision is not made,’ he said.
Lachman said EM-LA continues to be regularly invited to various public forums to discuss the cleanup.
“Recently, our people introduced the hexavalent chromium plume to the Los Alamos County Council, the Northern New Mexico Citizens Advisory Council and other meetings. We are happy to participate in these meetings and once we start the cleanup forums again there will be many more opportunities for public input. COVID obviously threw a curve ball at everyone and so we are trying to figure that out and it was time to figure them out again, ”he said.
The reporter asked what work was going on in the shadow of the NMED trial and any particular work stopped. In other words, what difference is there in the work done under the consent order pending the resolution of the trial.
“One of the things that we have done is that we have continued to move forward on the 14 steps that we proposed during the negotiations. Even though we couldn’t come to an agreement, we are still working on it. Our mission is to clean up the waste inherited from Los Alamos. It doesn’t stop because of the issues with NMED, ”Lachman said. “We have completed this exercise so far, three of those 14 milestones and we will try to complete two more by the end of this month. Many of these milestones are due by year end (September 30), but we are on track to complete them 14. This means we are moving forward with the order work by consent throughout the lab.
He noted that full implementation of the interim chrome plume measure has been initiated. The chrome project was successful in pushing the plume back approximately 500 feet along the boundary of the Pueblo de San Ildefonso.
“Now that we are up and running we are delighted to see the eastern edge. We are also continuing our work of characterizing the plume which will help inform us when developing a final remedy. We are installing two more monitoring wells to the north and southwest of the plume, ”Lachman said.
Lachman pointed out that in FY2020, only five shipments of transuranium waste were sent to WIPP, but as of October 1, there have been 22 shipments.
“Our goal this year is 30 shipments of EM waste off the hill. Right now, we are on track to meet or exceed this target. We have work to do to achieve it, but we are working very hard to achieve it, ”he said.
He concluded the interview by saying he just wanted to thank everyone he worked with during his federal career.
“It has been my privilege to serve with such dedicated people throughout my career, no matter where I have been,” he said. DOE-EM has yet to announce a replacement for Lachman