Editor:

I have lived in Aztec most of my life. I know that Tweeti Blancett's claims are true that there are thousands of gallons of gasoline under lands in the heart of Aztec that have leaked from the underground storage tanks at the gas station now owned by Western Refinery.

Environmental engineer reports and records of the gasoline tanks substantiate Blancett claims of contamination of their property. The State Environmental Department has been involved for many years. There are many witnesses.

Many people and agencies have knowledge of this travesty but very little of the fugitive toxic fuel that is in our Aztec environment has been cleaned up.

I am sure that many people driving through Aztec recall the guy with buckets and a rope in the middle of the median between the gas station on the corner of Main Avenue and NM 516 and the Step Back Inn.

He was dipping gasoline out of a hole in the median with a bucket on a rope. That was a few years ago long after the leaky tanks were first detected. He was a common sight in Aztec. I dont know if anyone has records of how many days he spent dipping gasoline out of the hole and I dont know how much gasoline he recovered. I wonder what he did with it? As far as I know, that was the only clean up effort on thousands of gallons of fugitive gasoline from the leaking storage tanks that are still underground. You would call that "a drop in the bucket".

There are monitoring wells on the gas station property, and on Step Back Inn property as well as adjoining land. I was with several concerned citizens and the Blancetts when the State opened up the monitoring wells on Blancett property a few years ago. We all smelled stale petroleum products in the wells when they were uncapped. We asked the State Environmental Department official if the fugitive gasoline plume was a risk to the nearby Animas River. It was unknown according to him. We requested monitoring wells in the river bottom area and were informed that the State did not have funds to drill and maintain any more monitoring wells at that time.

When the City of Aztec dug a utility infrastructure trench along the frontage of the Blancett property adjacent to NM 516 across from the gas station the trencher operator had to stop construction because he dug into gasoline soaked soil. He told us that the city crew had to take time off from the project until the odor of the gasoline dissipated out of the trench. He said that as far as he knew, no one reported the incident to the State Environmental Department.

It is mind boggling to me that so many Federal, State and City officials as well as the many owners of the gas station have known about this big problem in our Aztec environment but virtually nothing has been done to control the underground migration of the toxic gasoline or clean it up. Most likely the Blancett property is not the only contaminated land. We still have concerns about the uncertainty that the gasoline plume might reach the Animas River. It seems to me that the owners of the gas station need to step up, do the right thing and clean up the toxic mess. The Federal and State agencies need to do their jobs too. Sooner or later somebody is going to have to take care of this disaster.

 

Shirley J. McNall

Aztec