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New Mexico Science

Science, climate, weather and water from a New Mexico perspective

Possible Superfund Site Discovered Under Southeast Albuquerque Neighborhood

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Crews working on an old Air Force fuel spill have stumbled on what could be a new Superfund hazardous waste site beneath a southeast Albuquerque neighborhood. The potentially cancer-causing chemicals, which officials say most likely came from an old neighborhood dry cleaner, showed up in groundwater less than 2,000 feet from a major Albuquerque drinking water well.

Officials said Friday they are only beginning to assess the seriousness of the situation, but said the chemical’s discovery is likely to trigger action under the federal Superfund law, a program aimed at the nation’s most serious hazardous chemical contamination problems.

The chemical, Perchloroethylene or PCE, appears to be unrelated to the nearby Air Force fuel spill problem, said Jim Davis, head of the state Environment Department’s Resource Protection Division. “This chemical comes from dry cleaners,” Davis said in an interview.

The threat is to groundwater, and not people living in the neighborhood above the contamination, Davis said.

Crews working for the Air Force found the PCE when they were installing test wells in the neighborhood of Lousiana and Southern SE, near Phil Chacon Park.

Its discover could significantly complicate the already difficult problem of cleaning up the Air Force fuel spill, said Bruce Thomson, a University of New Mexico professor and groundwater contamination expert.

“It’s going to make life complicated,” Thomson said in an interview. “This is a big deal.”

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