BernCo, don't let another polluter into the South Valley - Albuquerque Journal

BernCo, don’t let another polluter into the South Valley

On Tuesday, Sept. 13, the Bernalillo County Commissioners will make a decision with outsized consequences for the South Valley and the Pueblo of Isleta, directly across the railroad tracks from a new housing development. The county zoning ordinance does not allow this type of land use, and the locals do not want it. The county zoning administrator, the county Board of Adjustment, and Albuquerque’s Environmental Health Department have thus far denied all requests relating to the new asphalt plant. Commissioners are now considering Star Paving’s appeal of a zoning administrator decision that it cannot build an asphalt plant on this site. Commissioners should deny the appeal.

The South Valley environment and its residents, including the Pueblo, have long been disproportionately impacted by water and air pollution. In the 1990s, a meat-packing facility cater-cornered to Star Paving’s proposed asphalt plant stored its killing floor wastewater in unlined ponds. Wastewater seeped into the ground and contaminated groundwater, and overflow effluent was disposed just to the north of the Pueblo’s boundary. We know our neighbors in the South Valley could tell many stories about the effects of pollution on them and their neighborhood.

Recently, the South Valley has been moving on to better land uses. The Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge is protecting essential habitat for wildlife. This spring, New Mexico Film Studios broke ground near the refuge. Many small, non-polluting businesses are being incubated by the South Valley Economic Development Center. And the Pueblo continues to develop outdoor activity businesses along its north boundary –– businesses that rely on clean air and water. These new developments are putting Albuquerque on the map for all the right reasons, supporting jobs that employ residents of the South Valley and stimulate our local economy while restoring ecosystems.

Star Paving’s proposed asphalt plant on land between South Broadway and South Second Street threatens this progress. County zoning only allows the land to be used for agricultural use, with extremely limited exceptions for mulch storage. For 35 years, the owners of the land have used it primarily to store mulch, gravel, rocks and crushed concrete. Now Star Paving is asking the County Commission, for the first time ever, to allow it to build an asphalt plant on this land –– a use that would increase pollution, traffic, and noise in the South Valley.

We should be going forward, not back. This plant would hurt economic revitalization in the South Valley, and approving it violates principles of environmental justice by shifting more pollution, traffic and noise into the backyard of the Pueblo and other South Valley residents.

County Commissioners will hear this issue at 3 p.m. Sept. 13. The Pueblo of Isleta, Mountain View Neighborhood Association, Mountain View Community Action, Friends of Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, Los Jardines Institute and New Mexico Environmental Law Center urge our commissioners to protect the South Valley from new pollution and deny Star Paving’s zoning appeal.

This guest column was also authored by Lauro Silva / board member, Mountain View Neighborhood Association; Marla Painter / president, Mountain View Community Action; Katie Dix / executive director, Friends of Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge; and Virginia Necochea / executive director, N.M. Environmental Law Center.

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