Waste site characterization through digital analysis of historical aerial photographs at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Eglin Air Force Base Page: 3 of 18
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Historical aerial photographs are used to provide a physical history and preliminary mapping
information for characterizing hazardous waste sites at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Eglin
Air Force Base. The examples cited show how imagery was used to accurately locate and identify
previous activities at a site, monitor changes that occurred over time, and document the observable
of such activities today. The methodology demonstrates how historical imagery (along with any
other pertinent data) can be used in the characterization of past environmental damage.
The US Department of Energy (DOE) and Department of Defense (DOD) face the formidable task
of cleaning up their facilities and bases after many years of nuclear and other types of weapons
development, testing, production, and stockpiling. Problems at these sites include waste stream
outfalls, landfill contaminants, depleted uranium scattering and other similar problems. This paper
focuses on how historical imagery and image processing was used for three specific examples:
characterizing burial trenches for cleanup purposes, looking for the sources of scattered depleted
uranium, and locating where former sumps were located so that soil sampling plans could be
executed. The activities that created these environmental signatures occurred some years ago, so
archival sources had to be searched in order to reconstruct events. These archives included written
records, aerial photographs, ground surveys, satellite imagery, and whatever other resources could
be brought to the problem.
MAPPING TRENCHES AT THE MATERIALS DISPOSAL AREA F (MDA-F) SITE
AT LOS ALAMOS
This waste site area is located on the northern edge of Two Mile Mesa on the Pajarito Plateau (Fig.
1). The plateau is composed primarily of the Bandelier Tuff, a series of ash-flow deposits that
were formed 1.1 to 1.5 million years ago. The tuff is soft and easily workable with power
equipment. Soil cover on the mesa tops, as at MDA-F, is typically 3 to 4 feet deep. The disposal
trenches were probably excavated through the soil and into the tuff.
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Van Eeckhout, E.; Pope, P.; Wells, B.; Rofer, C. & Martin, B. Waste site characterization through digital analysis of historical aerial photographs at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Eglin Air Force Base, article, May 1, 1995; New Mexico. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc702654/m1/3/: accessed October 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.