daily press staff
Cleanup efforts are continuing after emulsified asphalt was spilled into a creek along NM 15 in September, but state and federal officials said at a public meeting Thursday night that 100 percent of the material had not been removed. I said never.
On Sept. 26, a tanker truck capsized on a tight highway curve, spilling about 2,000 gallons of asphalt into intermittent tributaries and Jaybird Canyon, said a watershed protection expert with the NM Environmental Service’s Office of Surface Water Quality. John Moeny said. The initial runoff extended to about 950 meters from the site, but he conceded that subsequent rains likely washed the asphalt further into the canyon.
He and officials from the New Mexico Department of the Environment, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Environmental Protection Agency gave a presentation on decontamination to the public at the Grant County Veterans Memorial Business and Conference Center. The question and answer session that followed was heated at times as local residents criticized the slow response to the spill and questioned the official decision that the spill was not dangerous.
Moeny outlined a cleanup effort undertaken by trucking company R. Marley, LLC under the direction of the department. He said he had been at the scene since Oct. 4 when he was notified of the spill.
The first stage of cleanup is underway and consists of removing asphalted spilled products, rocks and forest debris, he said.
“Most of it came out,” he said, adding that crew members hired by R. Marley sifted and sorted out the asphalt deposited in the first 100 yards of flood water after the spill. .
Rocks under 10 inches, which were at least 50 percent covered, were removed along with leaves and other forest material, he said.
“Most of what’s left there are big rocks and bedrock, so I’m going to leave the material as it is,” he said. “At this time, we feel that removing this material would cause more damage to the environment than this hardened asphalt poses.”
He said there are large rocks and bedrock that are essentially coated with material.
“It’s not the prettiest thing, but … it’s pretty invasive to take it out at the moment, so we’re keeping those things where we think it would do a lot of damage to get rid of it,” he said. Said said.
“We lost 100% of the places we wanted,” said Camille Hawes, Hilla National Forester, to the cheers of the 30-strong crowd. “And we understand that by taking it all away, we can do more damage. It’s just an unfortunate situation. We don’t want to do more harm than good.”
Moeny said the first phase of cleanup is likely to be finished in the spring, followed by restoration phases next spring and summer.
After he and other agency representatives inspected the site on Thursday, he said they all agreed that more material needed to be removed.
“So R. Marley will be back next week, or maybe the week after that, with the materials we identified,” he said.
Sherry Lemon, director of the Environmental Service’s Office of Surface Water Quality, emphasized throughout the meeting that the spill was not considered hazardous based on the ingredient list provided by the asphalt manufacturer.
The only ingredient listed as a hazardous substance was caustic soda, which is used to make the soap that mixes the oil and water in the asphalt. She said she didn’t even have to put a placard on the truck to say it was carrying a
She also said the substance is not considered toxic to aquatic life.
“You mean no harm? It can be harmful, but danger is defined in different laws,” she said.
However, some in the audience were not convinced that the material was not dangerous. I pointed out that
Tony Russ and Cecilia Norris, who live near the spill area, questioned authorities about their accountability.
When officials said they were cleaning up the spill according to state standards, Norris believed them, but questioned those standards.
“Twenty-five days after hearing about this spill, state standards are also in place, but I don’t think the standards are sufficient,” she said.
She asked who oversees the state and federal agencies themselves.
“You, ma’am, you all are,” Howes said. “We do not deny that it has taken longer than we would have liked. We are not hiding. We are accountable to you, the public.”
One question that authorities have yet to answer is why the spill was not reported immediately.
A representative for the New Mexico Department of Public Safety said officers at the scene took a report, according to the New Mexico State Police, and that communication between the driver and the officer was not a dangerous spill. he said, to the extent that he was obliged to deal with
Lemon said part of the investigation process will involve working with the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Public Security on reporting procedures.
Contact Juno Ogle at: [email protected]