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State Gives First Public Updates On Chemical Spill

Ed Williams
NMED Groundwater Bureau Chief Michelle Hunter during a presentation to the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Protection Advisory Board about risks to public health from the Laun-Dry plume.

The state’s Environment Department gave an update on the toxic plume of dry-cleaning solvents beneath downtown Albuquerque to neighbors and Bernalillo County’s water protection board last week. The meetings were the first time the plume’s risks to public health have been publicly discussed by the state.

Groundwater Bureau Chief Michelle Hunter told the audiences there is a risk that the chemicals in the shallow aquifer are evaporating into toxic gas and making their way into people’s homes—and that the concentration of chemicals are several hundred times higher than the threshold for recommended air testing.

“The concentration [of dry cleaning chemicals] in groundwater is about 1,000 parts per billion right underneath these houses, and we need to look at anything above 5 for potential vapor intrusion,” Hunter said.

Hunter said the pace of the cleanup has finally picked up in the past few weeks after more than a decade of sluggish movement. Laun-Dry Supply Company is responsible for the pollution and will be testing the air inside several dozen homes with state supervision in the coming months.

Ed Williams came to KUNM in 2014 by way of Carbondale, Colorado, where he worked as a public radio reporter covering environmental issues. Originally from Austin, Texas, Ed has reported on environmental, social justice, immigration and Native American issues in the U.S. and Latin America for the Austin American-Statesman, Z Magazine, NPR’s Latino USA and others. In his spare time, look for Ed riding his mountain bike in the Sandias or sparring on the jiu-jitsu mat.
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