State announces funding for emergency response in Eddy County

CARLSBAD, N.M. (KRQE)- On Wednesday, a lot of New Mexicans learned they could be a little safer next time there’s a scare at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad.

The state is sending more money to emergency responders in the area to be more prepared for a radioactive leak.

The pilot plant was shut down more than two years ago after a string of accidents.

A leak exposed 21 workers to low-levels of radiation, but state officials are pushing to re-open the plant. They announced more than $750,000 in funding to Eddy and Lea Counties.

This money will be going to provide better training and equipment to first responders and radiological preparedness training to hospital staff.

“Everybody is doing a, you know working really hard and trying get it all put back to normal and safe for everyone around,” said Chelsea Nolan, Carlsbad resident.

It’s all part the $74 million settlement between the state and the U.S. Department of Energy over the WIPP leak.

Four million dollars of the settlement was for the plant’s new emergency operations center. Another $34 million of the settlement is going to repair roads used to truck waste into the WIPP facility, like highway 62-180 outside Carlsbad.

“How safe are emergency responders? The sheriff? The rural populous, when their traveling these roads with pot holes and what not, you come around a corner and boom,” said Michael Bromka, Carlsbad resident.

People in the Cavern City say more training and better equipment to handle another leak at WIPP can’t hurt.

“I think it’s terrific of course, I also think that we’ve got some very professional people and reliable people, and I reckon we’ve been safe all along,” said Bromka.

About half of that $74-million settlement will be used to fix up the roads and infrastructure on WIPP and Los Alamos National Lab property to make them safer.

The Department of Energy hopes to have WIPP back up and running in December.

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