Mountain View is city's industrial sacrifice zone - Albuquerque Journal

Mountain View is city’s industrial sacrifice zone

The recent decision by the city of Albuquerque’s Environmental Health Department (EHD) to issue an air pollution permit for yet another polluting industry in the Mountain View neighborhood is a blatant case of environmental racism. For decades, Mountain View, a community along the Rio Grande just north of the Pueblo of Isleta, has been disproportionately overburdened with toxic and hazardous contamination.

New Mexico Terminal Services applied for an air pollution permit from EHD to construct a hot mix asphalt plant at 9615 Broadway SE, just south of the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in the Mountain View neighborhood. The property is next to the Rio Grande and the bosque, a green corridor that runs through the Middle Rio Grande Valley. The land is zoned for agricultural use; regardless, the city of Albuquerque issued an air pollution permit for the asphalt plant, ignoring Bernalillo County zoning laws.

Mountain View is a residential community of approximately 6,000 residents, predominantly working-class and low-income people of color. Agricultural farms have thrived in Mountain View for many generations. Our elementary school is over 100 years old.

                                                                                                Courtesy U.S Fish and Wildlife Service
Sandhill cranes and crows graze at the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge about 5 miles south of Downtown Albuquerque.

People who did not live in Mountain View zoned much of the neighborhood for industrial use in the 1970s. There was no public input. Since then, dozens of industrial companies have contaminated Mountain View’s air, water, and land with toxins and hazardous wastes. The Environmental Protection Agency designated Mountain View as an environmental justice community, meaning the federal government has already identified it as a community facing the disparate and inequitable impacts of environmental pollution.

Disturbingly, the city’s Environmental Health Department does not consider cumulative impacts on public health from combined industrial facilities. These pollutants negatively impact our health, especially children, elders and those with pre-existing health conditions. Residents already face higher rates of asthma and cancer. On average, Mountain View residents have a 10- to 24-year shorter life expectancy than other more affluent, majority-white neighborhoods in Albuquerque.

Mountain View neighbors worked diligently to obtain the old Price’s dairy for a national wildlife refuge, Valle de Oro. The refuge is nationally recognized as a model that serves a community overburdened with pollution. The air pollution permit for a hot mix asphalt plant, close to the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, is the last straw for us who live and work in Mountain View. This permit, stacked upon all of the other industrial permits, is nothing less than institutional and systemic racism.

The current city administration under Mayor Tim Keller touts itself as promoting diversity, equity and inclusion and strives to be a national leader on racial equity. However, if equity is a central focus of the administration, the city should stop issuing permits for polluting industries in a part of the county that is already disproportionately overburdened with industrial waste, contaminated air, water and land.

We who call Mountain View home deserve to live in a healthy and clean environment; it is a fundamental human right. It’s time to hold the administration and polluters accountable to ensure city and county governments treat all of our communities in Bernalillo County equitably.

Stop the industrial dumping and focus more on enhancing the rural beautification of the South Valley to include the Mountain View neighborhood with its culture and heritage in mind. End the discrimination of holding our Sector Development Plan hostage by continually deferring it, and develop our community so we can maintain a safe and healthy environment for all.

Mountain View refuses to be a sacrifice zone. Deny the development of the New Mexico Terminal Services asphalt plant and future polluting industries in Mountain View.

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