Widow names city, NM Environment Dept. in suit about Superfund site
The widow of well-known local businessman and former Golden Gloves boxer has filed a lawsuit against the city of Roswell and a state government department, and a Monday court hearing has been scheduled to decide whether the case should proceed.
Both the city and the New Mexico Environment Department have asked for dismissal of the case filed by Lynda Anaya in November 2019.
She alleges those entities were negligent in their responsibilities by failing to give proper notification to her and her husband about pollutants that she contends contributed to his death and to the health problems that he experienced prior to his passing.
She also alleges that entities did not fulfill their responsibilities to ensure that businesses did not release contaminants.
Lawyers representing Anaya, the city and the Environment Department did not respond to voicemail messages by press time.
Anaya died at age 73 on Nov. 15, 2017, and Lynda Anaya has alleged that his health problems and death were caused by or related to the chemicals used by various dry cleaners in the area where the Anayas ran their business, Anaya Gross Receipts Consulting and Tax Services LLC.
From 2007 to fall 2017, they rented an office at 508 W. Second St, the lawsuit indicates. That commercial building is one of four locations in the city now part of the Lea and West Second Street Superfund site.
Superfund sites are known areas of contamination designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to be on a national priority list for clean-up and remediation.
According to the EPA website, the federal agency began assessing whether the site should be designated as a Superfund site in 2010, a designation that became official in April 2016. The website indicates that both dry-cleaning operations and underground gasoline storage tanks contributed to the contaminants in the area.
A 2015 letter from the New Mexico Department of Environment supporting the Superfund designation — a letter sent to government officials with the city of Roswell and Chaves County — is included as an exhibit to Anaya’s complaint.
The EPA website indicates that the chemicals affecting soil and groundwater to varying degrees in the four locations of the Lea and West Second Street Superfund site are perchloroethylene (PCE), trichloroethylene (TCE), cis-1,2-dichloroethene (cis-1,2-DCE) and trans-1,2- dichloroethene (trans-1,2-DCE).
Anaya’s lawsuit also alleges that more than soil and water have been affected. It states that some vapor tests conducted by the New Mexico Environment Department in 2017 have indicated that contaminants exceeding recommended levels have seeped into the air around the office building.
Anaya states in her suit that her husband began to experience symptoms in 2010 that worsened over the years. She also said that she and other members of the family who spent time in the office have experienced less severe but similar symptoms that have diminished since vacating the office.
Her lawsuit is asking for actual, compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorney fees and costs.
The city and the Environment Department, in asking for dismissal, have indicated their views that the law does not require them to ensure the safety of the operations or products of businesses operating on private property. They also state that Anaya is basically alleging wrongful death, but not complying with the requirements to make such a legal claim. In addition, the Environment Department has alleged that the lawsuit was not filed within the two-year period required by the New Mexico Torts Claims Act.
The hearing concerning the motions to dismiss is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday in the Chaves County Courthouse. Judge Thomas Lilley of the New Mexico 5th Judicial District Court is due to preside.
Anaya was born in Roswell in 1944 and became known as the “Bronze Bomber” during his youth as a nine-time Golden Gloves champion boxer.
After graduating from Roswell High School and earning a degree from Eastern New Mexico University, he worked as an accountant for businesses and state offices. Upon retirement, he opened his own tax service. A father of five sons and a stepson, he also was active in many community and professional organizations.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.