Thursday News Roundup: Management, Safety Cited For Radiation Release At WIPP

Apr 24, 2014

Management, Safety Cited For Radiation Release At WIPP The Associated Press

Department of Energy investigators are blaming poor management, ineffective safety and maintenance programs, and a lack of proper oversight for a radiation release that contaminated 21 workers and shuttered the government's nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico two months ago.

Lead Department of Energy investigator Ted Wyka previewed the findings of an initial investigation of the leak from the Waste Isolation Pilot Project during a weekly community meeting Wednesday evening in Carlsbad. The full report will be released today [Thursday].

Crews have yet to identify the source of the leak, which sent low levels of radiation into the air around the plant on Feb. 14, nine days after a truck hauling salt underground caught fire. Safety and maintenance shortcomings were also blamed for that accident. It's unclear if the incidents are related.

Charges Dropped Against Tenn. Boy In Taos IncidentAP, Sante Fe New Mexican, Abq Journal

A New Mexico prosecutor says charges have been dropped against a teenager whose mother led police on a high-speed chase in a videotaped incident during which a State Police officer fired at her fleeing minivan carrying five children.

The son of Oriana Farrell of Memphis, Tennessee, had been accused of battery and assault in connection with a scuffle with officers during a traffic stop near Taos last October. Nobody was injured by the officer's gunfire.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Taos-area District Attorney Donald Gallegos says charges are being dropped against the youth because of concern for his future.

The Associated Press is not identifying the son, who was 14 years at the time, because of his age.

Charges remain pending against the mother. She has pleaded innocent.


Chief Has Few Answers On Latest Police Shooting The Associated Press

Two days after Albuquerque police shot and killed a 19-year-old suspected truck thief, the chief of the troubled department says he has little information about the latest shooting.

Chief Gorden Eden says police were unable to recover video from the body camera worn by the officer who shot Mary Hawkes. He also says he doesn't know yet if the gun found by her body was loaded, how many times she was shot, whether she was facing the officer when she was killed, whether any other officers' cameras captured the event, or if any witnesses have corroborated the officer's statement that the woman pulled a gun on him.

Hawkes is the third person to be killed by Albuquerque officers in five weeks and the first since the department was put under federal orders ordered to reduce the use of deadly force.

NM Offers Help With Uranium Mine Cleanup – The Associated Press

New Mexico is offering to help the Navajo Nation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency figure out how to best use $1 billion dollars to clean up abandoned uranium mines throughout the region.

The money is part of a massive settlement the federal government reached with Anadarko Petroleum Corp. It resolved a legal battle over Tronox Inc., a spin-off of Kerr-McGee, a company that operated dozens of uranium mines in the area, including 21 in New Mexico.

New Mexico officials decided in 2009 not to participate in Tronox's bankruptcy proceedings, leaving the state with no say in how the cleanup funds are to be used.

Gov. Susana Martinez's administration says the state lucked out because the definition of the sites to be cleaned up is broad enough to include those in northwestern New Mexico.

Feds Release Rio Grande Forecast The Associated Press

Federal officials have a plan for managing water in the Middle Rio Grande Valley.

The Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released the details of this year's operating plan during a meeting Wednesday in Albuquerque.

The plan calls for keeping the Rio Grande from drying in stretches at least through June 15. There are also plans to release pulses of water from reservoirs upstream to help the endangered silvery minnow during spawning season.

Officials acknowledge water supplies are limited again this year thanks to below average snowpack in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico.

The latest forecast from the Natural Resources Conservation Service shows spring and summer stream flows in New Mexico will be less than half of average and in some cases less than a quarter of average.

Albuquerque Utility Votes Against Fluoride The Associated Press

The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority has decided against adding more fluoride to the municipal water supply.

The vote came during a meeting Wednesday night.

In the same resolution, board members promised to revisit the issue after the federal government finalizes recommendations on optimal fluoride levels.

They also agreed to enter discussions with Albuquerque Public Schools and the New Mexico Department of Health to collaborate on public awareness of dental health.

The board was considering a measure that would have required the water authority to resume adding supplemental fluoride to the drinking water supply. It had stopped the practice in 2011 pending new federal guidelines.

Those guidelines have yet to materialize.

The utility says fluoride occurs naturally in Albuquerque's water system at an average of 0.5 parts per million.

Annual Albuquerque Powwow Opens With Pageant The Associated Press

Native American and indigenous dancers are gathering in Albuquerque for the 31st annual Gathering of Nations powwow.

The three-day event, North America's largest powwow, draws hundreds of competitive dancers and tens of thousands of spectators from across the U.S. and parts of Canada and Mexico.

The event kicks off Thursday evening with the Miss Indian World pageant, in which 23 Native American women from different tribes and traditions will be competing for this year's crown.

The pageant will commence with the talent competition, which will feature the young women doing traditional dances in their brightly colored regalia.

The crowning of Miss Indian World will take place on Saturday night at the University of New Mexico Arena.

Democrat Tom Udall Raises $1M For Senate Race The Associated Press

A new campaign finance report shows Democratic incumbent Tom Udall with a large fundraising advantage in the race for New Mexico's Senate seat.

Udall raised about $1 million during the first three months of the year and spent about $262-thousand dollars.

According to the latest Federal Election Commission reports, Udall's campaign had cash-on-hand of more than $3 million dollars at the end of March.

Udall is unopposed in the June Democratic primary, but he has two Republicans challengers.

Former GOP state chairman Allen Weh reported a cash balance of nearly $206-thousand dollars. He raised nearly $414-thousand dollars, including personal loans and contributions of $160-thousand dollars. Weh's campaign spent more than $200-thousand dollars.

No finance report was immediately available from the FEC for Republican David Clements, a Las Cruces attorney.

Park Service Celebrates Chaco Canyon The Associated Press

The National Park Service is celebrating Chaco Canyon's designation as an International Dark Sky Park.

Officials say the greater Chaco landscape in northwestern New Mexico is one of the last, best places in the U.S. for viewing the night sky.

The celebration starts with a guided walk through Chetro Ketl, one of Chaco's great houses. It covers more than 3 acres and contains several ceremonial structures known as kivas.

There will also be a tour of Pueblo Bonito, the most important site in the canyon, and a discussion about astronomy in the national parks.

The day finishes with telescopes and a star party.

The dark sky designation was made last fall, but the National Park Service had to put off the celebration until now because of the government shutdown.