Cost-savings help lab add wells to Recovery Act project.

Part of the $212 million in Recovery Act environmental projects at Los Alamos National Laboratory was the installation of 16 ground water monitoring wells. With the project nearing completion slightly more than a year later, nearly 10 percent of the wells budget has been saved through efficient purchasing and construction, and will be used for additional projects. 

Wells Are Expensive

Drilling ground water monitoring wells to sample water in the regional aquifer in New Mexico is expensive – about $2 million per well. Most of the cost is due to the depth of each well – an average of 1,100 feet – and the area’s complex geology.

“The purpose of the wells is to monitor possible lab-related contaminants in the ground water supply,” explains Ted Ball, program director. “We sample water from the wells, and analyze it for a number of contaminants.”

Though each well is costly to drill and construct, Ball saved almost 10 percent of his Recovery Act project budget by buying steel in bulk and by scheduling construction to save mobilization and demobilization costs for drilling equipment. The resulting savings of about $3 million will be used to construct an additional well and to conduct a sampling survey on three wells installed several years ago.

Completing Obligations

“Installing ground water monitoring wells is part of the lab’s Consent Order with the New Mexico Environment Department,” Ball notes. “We’re com-pleting our obligations under the Consent Order.”  The order also sets milestones for the Lab’s remediation of Manhattan Project and Cold War waste sites.

In addition to drilling an additional well, savings will be used to ensure that water samples taken from certain wells are accurate representations of perched aquifers – pockets of water above the water table – that are being sampled. “Recovery Act funding has sped up our compliance timeline and provided jobs,” Ball says. “It’s provided both environmental and economic benefits.”