CTOS 20th anniversary

Nye County shares 2017 results and plans for 2018 groundwater sampling campaign

CTOS 20th anniversary
John Klenke (right) and Jamie Walker with Nye County sample a well in Amargosa Valley.

The July 18, 2018 NSSAB meeting, held in Pahrump, Nevada, was noted by John Klenke to be one of the best-attended by private citizens during his nine years of participation. Those who provided public comment were focused on the safety of groundwater contaminated by historical nuclear testing activities at the NNSS. Klenke and the public commenters also expressed their appreciation to DOE for conducting the meeting in Pahrump. To view minutes of the July NSSAB meeting and others held in 2018, visit the NSSAB website at: www.nnss.gov/NSSAB/pages/MM_FY18.html.

In July, Nye County announced no tritium was detected in groundwater samples collected in late 2017 from 20 wells in communities down-gradient of the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS). The 2017 Tritium Sampling and Monitoring Program (TSaMP) results were shared by Nye County during a Nevada Site Specific Advisory Board (NSSAB) public meeting and at the Community Environmental Monitoring Program (CEMP) Workshop. The TSaMP is funded by a Department of Energy (DOE) grant and results are published in the annual NNSS Environmental Report as well as by the Pahrump Valley Times.

The announcement during the July 18 NSSAB meeting was made by John Klenke, a liaison member of the NSSAB representing the Nye County Nuclear Waste Repository Project Office, who was “happy to report that the 2017 results showed no tritium hits.” Klenke further noted that Nye County has been conducting the independent TSaMP since 2015, sampling wells in Amargosa Valley, Beatty and Lathrop Wells.

The week following the NSSAB public meeting, Klenke presented an update on the TSaMP at the CEMP Workshop, an event held for Community Environmental Monitors (CEMs) – residents that manage DOE-funded monitoring stations in their communities. Klenke’s briefing included sampling results for 10 wells in 2015, 20 wells in 2016, and 20 wells in 2017 – all of which showed no detectable levels of tritium. As Nye County prepares for the 2018 sampling campaign, Klenke solicited input from the CEMs on priorities, locations, and CEM participation. CEM feedback is expected by mid-September.

Klenke anticipates that 2018 sampling will occur from mid-October through the first week in December so that samples can be shipped to the independent laboratory for analysis before the holidays. To ensure the validity of, and increase public confidence in, sampling results, Nye County collects some duplicate samples and sends “blank” samples to the lab. In 2017, a total of 27 samples were analyzed to meet quality assurance requirements.

The DOE grant that funds the TSaMP also funds Nye County’s participation in peer reviews of DOE’s groundwater characterization program. Currently, meetings are being held to review the approach, data, and scientific analysis of the NNSS Yucca Flat and Rainier Mesa groundwater characterization areas. Reviewing the science behind DOE’s groundwater characterization approach gives Nye County the opportunity to “look under the hood” and provide input, according to Klenke. He also feels it instills confidence that “DOE is doing as competent a job as can be done for such a complex scientific endeavor.”