Official: County not impacted by WIPP radiation

February 25, 2014 • Local News

Chaves County residents have no reason to be concerned about [auth] the recent radiation leak from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, the county emergency manager said on Tuesday.

“I spoke with the emergency manager of Eddy County and with WIPP officials yesterday,” said Karen Sanders, emergency manager for Roswell and Chaves County.

“According to the current information, there will be no impact from the radiation on humans or the environment. The amounts are so low there is no reason for citizens to be concerned.”

Sanders said a meeting was held yesterday in Carlsbad with state and federal officials at the request of the Carlsbad mayor.

“The mayor wanted to alleviate the concerns of residents,” Sanders said.

An initial analysis of samples, from sensors inside and outside the plant, indicate a container leaked. But officials say it is unclear what caused the release, and it will likely be weeks before teams can get underground.

WIPP is the nation’s first underground nuclear repository and the only facility in the country that can store plutonium-contaminated clothing and tools from Los Alamos National Laboratory and other federal nuclear sites.

The elevated amounts of radiation that have been detected in and around the plant offer no more risk than a dental X-ray or an airline flight, officials said.

Sanders said no radiation monitoring has been taking place in Chaves County or Roswell. Neither the county nor the city have radiation monitoring equipment readily available, she added.

“We get our information from the WIPP site, and we are not monitoring the radiation,” Sanders said.

If there were a radiation emergency, the county would receive equipment and assistance from the state and federal government. “That’s how it works,” Sanders said. “If we have an emergency of any kind, we get assistance from the state and federal agencies.”

The county has emergency operation plans in place and officials have access to resources, regardless of what type of emergency occurs.

In the case of a radiation emergency, the county would need access to resources far above what is available locally, Sanders said.

As far as the WIPP leak, Sanders said again that there is no reason for residents of Roswell and Chaves County to be alarmed.

“WIPP is very good at what they do, and they have been very forthcoming with information,” Sanders said. “They are trying to get out current and accurate information to people.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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