Alibi V.20 No.33 • Aug 18-24, 2011 


Superfund Sites

A Superfund site is a polluted area that the federal government has determined is harmful to public health or the environment and is in need of immediate cleanup efforts. Lucky Albuquerque has three.

The full list of New Mexico’s Superfund sites:

South Valley Superfund Site: From the ’50s to the early ’70s, this 1-square mile area hosted a number of industrial operations, including a plant that manufactured weapons components for the Atomic Energy Commission. Unfortunately, according to the EPA, the industrial legacy badly contaminated both the soil and ground water with toxic solvents like trichloroethane, benzene and toluene xylene. OK, so we don’t know what those are either, but they sure sound bad, don’t they?

AT&SF: The railroad was extremely important for early Albuquerque, but for every romantic image of a steam train gliding into the Alvarado Station, there’s a smoky, polluted counterpoint. One of the latter is this old AT&SF facility, which from 1908 to 1972 pressure-treated railroad ties with creosote. All that’s left of the plant these days is 70,000 gallons of tainted waste water, slowly dripping into our aquifer. Fortunately, the EPA and NMED are on the case: They’ve installed a water treatment system and also removed 83 freight cars' worth of toxic sludge.

Fruit Avenue Plume: Lurking below Downtown Albuquerque is a plume of trichloroethylene (an industrial solvent) two-thirds of a mile long and about 900 feet wide. This is Albuquerque’s newest Superfund site. Originally caused by a leaky dry cleaning business that operated in the area from 1940 to 1970, the toxic plume has already caused the closures of several wells and is believed to be creeping eastward. So watch out EDo! Hopefully, the pump and treatment plant installed by the EPA in 2005 will clean it up before any more of the water supply is effected. (TB)