Home News Local News Superfund test results show possible health risk in one location

Superfund test results show possible health risk in one location

A report released by the EPA indicates that tests conducted in summer 2017 found a contaminant above minimal risk levels in an unoccupied portion of this building on West Second Street. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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A potential health concern was found during summer 2017 tests at a commercial building located within one of Roswell’s two Superfund sites, according to documents released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

A contractor for the EPA indicated in a report obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request that mitigating actions should be taken to guard public health against vapor intrusion (VI) into an office and retail building identified in the report as being at 510 to 514 W. Second Street, located at the corner of South Missouri Avenue.

“The VI pathway likely poses a risk to human health at the commercial building located at Site 1. It is recommended that mitigation be completed and that the VI pathway be reassessed again during the winter months,” stated the October 2017 report prepared by Environmental Engineering, Science and Technology Inc. of Lewisville, Texas.

EPA spokeswoman Jennah Durant stated in an email that the highest level of contaminants detected during the summer tests was in an unoccupied portion of the building.

“Mitigation methods that could be used include sealing openings, installing vapor barriers and performing passive venting,” Durant said.

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She explained that the vapor intrusion tests, which were conducted in May, June and July, had found that vapors collected at some spots in the commercial building had perchloroethene, or PCE, above the 41 micrograms per cubic meter established as the minimal risk level by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

One microgram per cubic meter would be the equivalent of about one particle of dust inhaled per hour, according to a published book about pollutants.

Durant said that the possible consequences of short-term exposure could be dizziness, headaches and drowsiness.

Contamination in the area is believed to have begun in the 1960s due primarily to chemicals spilled or leaked by dry cleaning operations no longer in business. Leakage years ago from an underground fuel tank along West Second Street is also thought to be a cause of some problems.

A person working at an office in the West Second Street building referred questions to Mark Marley, who said he did not want to comment and that he was not the building owner.

A request for comment from the building owner left with Marley was not responded to by press time, and phone numbers for people listed as officers and directors of the corporation that county property records identify as the owner of the building could not be immediately obtained.

The Lea and West Second Street site is one of two Superfund sites in Roswell, and it consists of four different locations.

What the report refers to as Site 1 is centered at the commercial building and a former gas station across the street and involves 156 acres. Site 2 is a 509-acre site starting in the 500 block of East Second Street. Site 3 originates at the intersection of West Second Street and North Montana Avenue and extends about 276 acres. Site 4 covers about 123 acres and originates around South Virginia and East Alameda avenues.

The other Superfund site in the city is generally referred to as the McGaffey and Main Street Superfund Site. Contamination there also started because of dry cleaning businesses, according to state and federal officials.

Efforts to contain and decrease groundwater and vapor contaminants at the 550-acre McGaffey site have been underway for about nine years.

New Mexico Environment Department staff met in Roswell Jan. 23 to advise residents not connected to city water but living within the plume area or the half-mile safety buffer surrounding the plume to refrain from drinking from private wells or private water sources until the water is tested for contaminants and determined to be safe.

The state also mailed cards to residents living outside the city limits but within the plume area.

The groundwater plume extends in a south and southeasterly direction from the McGaffey and Main intersection, state officials said. It now reaches Atkinson Street to the east and beyond Poe Street to the south, they said.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.