Regulators find oil, lead contamination at Fruitland recycling site

Steve Garrison The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The New Mexico Environment Department is requiring that Tri Delta Iron & Metal in Fruitland develop a work plan to remediate soil contaminated by lead and oil.

Inspectors from the department visited the property at 28 County Road 6743 in October to follow up on allegations that employees at the recycling business dumped battery acid into the San Juan River.

In a notice sent to company owner Juel Jordahl on Dec. 5, inspectors cited the company for five violations.

The notice states that hazardous waste kept at the property was not being properly labeled or identified, waste containers were not being properly sealed, used oil spills were not being cleaned up in a timely manner and battery acid spills were neither identified nor addressed.

According to the violation notice, Jordahl has 60 days to submit a work plan explaining how he will address the identified violations. He is also expected to determine whether groundwater at the site has been contaminated.

The notice was provided to The Daily Times by the Environment Department.

Department spokesman Jim Winchester said in an email that Jordahl has hired an environmental consultant to address issues raised in the violation notice.

Staff members from the department's Hazardous Waste Bureau are expected to visit the site again in the next week to discuss the violations.

Jordahl did not respond to a request for comment.

Jordahl was charged in June with multiple felonies for allegedly colluding with BHP Billiton employees to steal approximately $400,000 worth of diesel fuel from the company's mining sites in San Juan County.

Tri Delta Iron & Metal was contracted to scrap metal at BHP Billiton sites when the thefts are alleged to have occurred.

A former subcontractor for Tri Delta Iron & Metal, Rodney Wilkinson, first brought the alleged thefts to the attention of authorities.

Wilkinson also filed complaints with environmental regulators in April claiming that industrial-size batteries and battery acid had been dumped at the Fruitland property in fall 2013.

As reported by The Daily Times, the investigation into battery acid contamination at the recycling business stalled for six months after an inspector for the Environment Department went to the wrong address.

Jordahl is being represented in the criminal case by Farmington attorney Val Jolley.

Jolley said he did not wish to comment.

Jordahl is expected to appear at a motion hearing on Thursday, Jan. 22.

Failure to comply with the department's requirements could result in more severe actions being taken, including civil penalties, the notice states.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and Follow him on Twitter @SteveGarrisonDT on Twitter.