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State Fair Awaits OK for Water Disposal Plan

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Expo New Mexico is waiting for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to decide whether its plan to stop dumping manure-polluted water into the city’s storm drainage system – and ultimately into the Rio Grande – is acceptable.

The issue was discussed at length Monday during the New Mexico State Fair Commission’s first meeting since June. The seven-member, governor-appointed commission oversees the 236-acre state-owned fairgrounds.

A year ago this month the EPA notified Expo general manager Dan Mourning that the fairgrounds “must immediately take all necessary measures to prevent any discharge of pollutants” from its property.

Prior to that, all of the fairgrounds runoff was diverted into the city’s storm drains. Those drains empty into Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority structures that eventually empty into the Rio Grande.

Because the systems are interconnected, all three agencies have been issued “administrative orders” by the EPA, and directed to address the problem.

The EPA says water polluted by manure – which produces nitrogen, phosphorus, organic matter, bacteria and sediments – can clog rivers and streams with algae, kill fish by reducing oxygen in the water and transmit waterborne diseases.

Because of the number of horses housed on the fairgrounds throughout the year, the EPA considers it a “concentrated animal feeding operation” and therefore subject to a bevy of regulations.

Besides immediately halting the discharge of manure-polluted water into the city storm water system, the EPA ordered Expo to develop a plan that would permanently halt such discharges.

To comply, Expo closed off a series of drains through the fairgrounds’ barn areas that drain into the city storm water system, and built a temporary gravel dam on a parking lot near Lomas and San Pedro NE. The temporary dam is immediately east of one of two of the fairgrounds’ storm water holding ponds that empty into the city’s storm drain system.

Expo also collects manure from the barn area daily, Mourning said Monday, and has it hauled away by a commercial disposal company, thus limiting the amount of standing manure on the fairgrounds.

Expo also proposes grading barn areas and replacing several feet of topsoil between barns with sand to absorb runoff and prevent standing water.

Under its latest proposal, Expo would send its “processed water” – meaning municipal water that is used in the barn areas – into the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority sewage system, pending that authority’s approval.

Expo Deputy Manager John C. Jaramillo said Monday that recent analyses of Expo’s processed water indicates it would be suitable for the sewer system, and that the water utility authority appears amenable to accepting it.

Mourning said he hopes to hear from the EPA in the coming weeks, and that all of the agencies have shown a high level of cooperation in resolving the issue.

In other action at Monday’s State Fair Commission meeting, chairman Larry Kennedy was re-elected chairman, and commissioner Matt Rush was elected secretary-treasurer, both on 4-3 votes.
— This article appeared on page C7 of the Albuquerque Journal

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