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State, feds begin Superfund site studies

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Testing of soil samples and of vapors inside buildings around the West Second and Lea Avenue has been conducted by the New Mexico Environment Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The area is a Superfund National Priority List site. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

State and federal environmental agencies are awaiting results on tests at one of the two Superfund contamination sites in the city.
A soil gas survey and a vapor intrusion study began in May for what is called the Lea and West Second Street Superfund SIte.
The soil survey, which seeks to determine if contaminants from groundwater or deep soils have reached top levels of soil, has been conducted, according to Allison Majure, communications director with the New Mexico Environment Department.
She said that Albuquerque and Dallas staff of EA Engineering are the contractors for the study, which involved placing 10 probes in the soil at various places. She said the soil samples collected are now being analyzed in a laboratory.
Vapor intrusions studies also were done. They determine whether toxic vapors are rising from soil into buildings.
“The results are not back yet,” said Majure. “Until we know what the results are, we won’t know what the next steps are. They are a variety of things that could be done next.”
The Lea Avenue and West Second Streets site was added to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency National Priorities List in April 2016 at the recommendation of the New Mexico Environment Department. The site actually consists of four contaminated soil and groundwater locations in the vicinity and covers 1,064 acres, according to EPA documents.
The locations include 156 acres around 510 and 514 W. Second Street, 509 acres around 507 W. Second St., 276 acres near West Second Street and North Montana Avenue, and 123 acres around South Virginia Avenue and East Alameda Street.
The soil and water contamination is caused by both known and unknown sources, the EPA says. The known sources are commercial dry cleaners that operated in the area years ago, and the identified contaminants are four types of chlorinated solvents. They were found in groundwater at levels above permitted amounts, and a risk of migration to top soil or to water supplies used by the public exists, the EPA indicates.
As part of containment and clean-up efforts, in 2009, the state Environment Department removed an underground storage tank that had been connected to the sewer system from property where a dry cleaning business once operated.
Some businesses in the area were aware of the situation and said that their business locations had been sites of testing.
“It concerns me some,” said Raymond Anaya of Anaya Tax Services on West Second Street. “They didn’t seem too worried, but you never know.”
Anaya said that his business site, where he has worked since 2007, was one of those where vapor testing had been conducted and that he has been told that he will be kept informed of results.
Anaya also was aware of the Superfund site on McGaffey and Main streets. “It happened once before in south Roswell. They had a dry cleaners, there, too.”
The EPA already has completed several remediation studies and actions on the groundwater contaminants at that site, added to the Superfund National Priorities List in 2002. Clean-up efforts began in 2008. The EPA has identified the source of contamination as dry cleaning businesses operating in the area in the 1950s and 1960s.
New Mexico has 16 sites on the National Priorities List, according to the EPA website. Nationwide, there are 1,336 sites on the list.
The federal Superfund program was started in 1980 to manage and finance clean-ups of serious contamination sites when no companies, individuals or other government entities can be held financially or legally responsible for site remediation.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.