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Surface Soil

Soil chemical concentrations are monitored to evaluate potential risk to plants, wildlife, and humans.

April 12, 2012
Two Laboratory environmental field team members take soil samples from a perimeter location.

Two Laboratory environmental monitoring program members collect a soil sample to undergo chemical analyses.


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Soil samples are routinely analyzed for chemicals to determine whether releases from Laboratory operations affect concentrations, and to assess potential risk to plants, wildlife, and humans.

Monitoring surface soil

Los Alamos National Laboratory has monitored levels of chemicals, including radionuclides, in surface soils since the early 1970s. Soil samples are currently collected once every three years from approximately 20 locations on Laboratory property, 11 perimeter locations, and six regional background locations. The background locations are more than 20 miles from the Laboratory, and at a similar elevation.

What we look for

  • Radionuclides
  • Metals and other inorganic chemicals
  • Organic chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), high explosives, dioxins, and furans

Why we do it

  • To detect and measure releases from Laboratory operations by looking at concentrations of radionuclides, metals, and organic chemicals in soil collected from Laboratory and perimeter locations, and compare them with concentrations in soil collected from regional background locations
  • To determine if soil chemical concentrations are changing over time
  • To estimate potential radiation dose and chemical exposure risk to plants, wildlife, and humans

View the data

The results, interpretation, and discussion of the data are available in the Annual Site Environmental Report.