Technical Area 16 (TA-16), located in the southwestern corner of Los Alamos National Laboratory, was established to develop explosive formulations, cast and machine explosive charges, and assemble and test explosive components for the nuclear weapons program. Water was used in the process of casting and machining high explosives, including Royal Demolition Explosives (RDX). Process water containing RDX flowed into settling “ponds” and ultimately into Cañon de Valle between 1951 and 1996, resulting in contamination of nearby springs, surface water, and groundwater. Corrective Measures Implementation to address surface and shallow subsurface RDX contamination was completed in 2017. DOE's current focus is to complete the characterization of contamination in the perched and deeper groundwater and prepare a comprehensive investigation report.
TA-16 is bordered by Bandelier National Monument along State Highway 4 to the south and by the Santa Fe National Forest along State Highway 501 to the west.
The RDX Characterization Campaign is a Consent Order campaign being executed by the Department of Energy’s Environmental Management Los Alamos Field Office and its contractor N3B to better understand the nature and the extent of the RDX contamination and the associated risk. This campaign includes the following activities:
1) characterization and monitoring of perched-intermediate (approximately 650 to 900 feet below ground surface) and regional (approximately 1200 feet below ground surface) groundwater through well installation and monitoring, tracer studies, aquifer testing, and laboratory-scale testing related to potential evaluation of in situ remedies;
2) Preparation of a final deep groundwater investigation report that will include an evaluation of potential long-term impacts of RDX to the regional aquifer from RDX currently in the vadose zone and perched-intermediate groundwater, and, if necessary,
3) Preparation of a Corrective Measures Evaluation report.
Please read the RDX Characterization fact sheet for more information on this campaign, including its current status.
You can also learn more about the RDX Characterization Campaign by downloading related presentations EM-LA has provided to the public on our Presentations page.