Isleta Pueblo Politics

By Christopher L. Abeita

Subscribe via Email

Don't miss a post. Enter your email to receive notifications of new posts.

Deadly Radioactive Waste Buried Near Isleta Pueblo

Sandia National Laboratories buried highly radioactive nuclear waste approximately two (2) miles from the Pueblo of Isleta’s northern boundary. The dump site is 2.6 acres in size. The deadly waste includes:

Metallic sodium;
Uranium 235,
Uranium 238,
Plutonium 238;
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB); &
Trichloroethylene (TCE).

Dr. Eric Nuttall explained to Isleta Pueblo Politics that those are a just few examples of the radioactive waste buried near Isleta Pueblo.

Dr. Nuttall is a professor emeritus of Chemical/Nuclear Engineering at the University of New Mexico. He works with Citizen Action New Mexico, a non-profit organization. Citizen Action is fighting to get Sandia Labs to cleanup its deadly waste.

From 1959 through 1988, Sandia Labs buried its nuclear and chemical waste just outside of Isleta Pueblo on Kirtland Air Force Base. According to Dr. Nuttall, Sandia’s dump contains a “wide spectrum of mixed waste.” The site contains “chemicals, heavy metals, gallons of mercury and large quantities of chlorinated solvents that will contaminate the water.”

More troubling — Sandia National Laboratories does not have a complete inventory of all radioactive waste buried at the site. Sandia is not even sure where the radioactive waste is located within the dump. This prevents proper monitoring.


Location of Sandia’s Waste Site

Map of Disposal Pits & Trenches

Radioactive waste is highly dangerous. Depending on exposure, it can cause birth defects, cancer or kill.  It can also severely damage the soil, plants, trees and wildlife for generations along with insects and microscopic organisms. 

Photo’s of Sandia’s Radioactive Dump Near Isleta Pueblo (Click to enlarge).

Trench at Sandia

Trench at Sandia 2



Sandia National Labs is owned by Lockheed Martin. It conducts nuclear research for the US Department of Energy.

During the 1970’s, Sandia Labs conducted nuclear meltdown experiments. Those experiments created high level radioactive waste. This is same waste that Sandia buried in Isleta’s backyard. Additional nuclear and toxic waste was transported to the dump from all over the world.

Sandia’s dump poses an immediate threat to the Pueblo of Isleta.

First, there is a high degree of an explosion occurring at the dump. Sandia’s dump contains metallic sodium, which will ignite and explode when it comes in contact with water. An explosion or fire would spread radiation into the air, soil and water.

Seven (7) months ago, on October 18, 2015, a dump site containing the same type of waste exploded in Beatty, Nevada. At that site, radioactive waste was buried in 55 gallon drums and covered with approximately 10 feet of dirt just like the waste buried near Isleta Pueblo.

According to a fire marshall’s report, the explosion and nuclear fires in Beatty “spread radiation 100 miles away to Las Vegas and to St. George, Utah.”

Explosion in Beatty, Nevada.


More details on the Beatty explosion.


Another threat to Isleta is the contamination of underground water. According to Citizen Action, toxic waste has leeched to within 50 feet of the groundwater. Everyday, the waste moves closer to our acquifer. Eventually, it will poison our drinking water. 

Bob Klein, a free lance writer, explained how governmental agencies covered up records and violated EPA regulations concerning Sandia’s dump. Those agencies are the New Mexico Environmental Department (NMED) and a regional office of the Environmental Protection Agency (Region 6) in Dallas, Texas.

The ABQ Free Press published Klien’s article. Klien explains how the NMED and Region 6 worked to prevent the public from learning  how Sandia’s nuclear dump poses a threat to Abuquerque’s drinking water.

To read Klein’s article, click: Cover-up at SNL Nuke Dump

Citizen Action New Mexico filed several lawsuits under the Freedom of Information Action Act (FOIA) to obtain documents concerning Sandia’s dump. The documents reveal the types of radioactive waste buried near Isleta Pueblo.

David McCoy, Director of Citizen Action, called Sandia’s waste “some of the most dangerous material on the planet.”

Sandia Labs, the Department of Energy and Lockheed Martin are resisting demands to excavate and clean up their mess. Why? Because it would cost them hundreds of millions of dollars.


If Sandia’s dump explodes, how would the nuclear and chemical waste affect Isleta’s mountains, farm land, wild life, river and people?

What specific actions have Isleta tribal officials taken to protect the Pueblo of Isleta from the high level radioactive waste buried two (2) miles from our border?

Does the Tribe have an evacuation plan?





Add a Comment
  1. Good article.I look forward to hearing the reactions/thoughts/ideas of the Isleta people on this very serious threat.

  2. “Sandia Labs, the Department of Energy and Lockheed Martin are resisting demands to excavate and clean up their mess. Why? Because it would cost them hundreds of millions of dollars.” From the looks of the photos it couldn’t have cost them much at all to bury all this toxic waste only 10 feet underground, and so close to people, land, and water. Could have been done with a backhoe. I’m disgusted, but not at all surprised. I have members of my family who were raised in Isleta Pueblo who died of cancer. I think it could be connected. It’s not the first time federal government refuses to take responsibility for their actions. There are many families in the Trinity site area affected by cancer. How sad.

  3. Unbelievable!!!! The first thing that comes to mind is…when, why and how???? Tribal Administration along with the Tribal Council should be hiring specialists in this area to investigate this health hazard problem! In the past, Tribal Council hired specialists to investigate the problems left behind by Wall Colomony. They allocated money to hire specialists which in turn brought back a report to the Tribal Council with options for clean up! Some of the residents in the subdivisions of Pickle Heights and Sunset Hills were experiencing health problems. A home was demolished and rebuilt because of the chemicals found in the area. Come on Tribal Leadership…let’s get this investigated and begin a dialogue with David Mielke (NOT Pablo Padilla) in a possible suit with the federal government. Could this highly nuclear waste be the problem which are causing health problems with our Tribal members? Not only a human being but what about wildlife?

  4. We need to hold Sandia labs accountable for dumping toxic waste close enough to our land where tribal members can pay the ultimate price. Meanwhile big government corporations continue to look the other way, unaffected by the whole situation. They should be ashamed of themselves.

What are your thoughts?

Isleta Pueblo Politics © 2014 Frontier Theme
%d bloggers like this: