Company says remediation process poses no risk to people in area

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FARMINGTON — Contaminated soil that caused concern for Taos-area residents will be treated at a facility about 15 miles south of Bloomfield.

The contaminated soil was found in August at Taos Ski Valley. It consists of more than 60 truckloads, or 675 cubic yards, of dirt contaminated with diesel fuel, according to the Taos News. The Taos News reported the contamination likely occurred before 1995.

The company had planned to treat the dirt at a site it owns about 1 mile west of the Rio Grande Gorge bridge, but the plan led to public outcry. The Taos News reported nearby residents were concerned about groundwater or airborne contamination.

Last week, Taos Ski Valley officials announced plans to move the soil to the Envirotech Inc. remediation facility south of Bloomfield. Envirotech operates a land farm that is permitted by both the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division and New Mexico Environmental Department to treat soils contaminated by oil and natural gas products, including diesel fuels.

Donald Ortiz, the field operations manager for Envirotech, said the remediation of soil is fairly routine for the company. The facility uses a photodegradation process to break down the hydrocarbons in the soil. 

"Basically, the sun bakes the soil and remediates it," Ortiz said.

Ortiz said the soil already has been transported to the location south of Bloomfield.

Ortiz said the company does not add any chemicals to the soil. The soil will be turned about four times during the remediation process. 

Ortiz said the length of time it takes to remediate soil depends on the contamination level. He expects the soil will be completely remediated within two years. After the remediation process is complete, the soil will remain on the privately owned property south of Bloomfield.

"We're in this business because of this stuff," Ortiz said.

Ortiz said Envirotech is compliant with New Mexico Environment Department regulations. He said the soil remediation does not pose any risk to people driving or walking nearby. Ortiz said the location is in a remote area of the county south of Bloomfield. He said the property is surrounded by land managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

The Taos News had reported the soil would be moved to Farmington, and that story was republished by the Santa Fe New Mexican. The news reports prompted the city of Farmington to send out a press release this morning informing residents that the soil will be taken to the facility 15 miles south of Bloomfield.

"Community members should be assured that no contaminated dirt will be relocated to Farmington," said City Manager Rob Mayes in the press release.  

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at daily-times.com.

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