New Mexico Environment Department gets $350,000 EPA grant

By Mary Elizabeth Williams-Villano

The money will aid in further cleanup of the Roswell Superfund site.

It wasn’t extraterrestrials that created the mess, just old dry cleaning businesses. The toxic chemicals they left behind long after closing up shop caused a big swath of Roswell, New Mexico, to be declared a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site.

The 550-acre site includes spots where several dry cleaners had operated from 1956 to 1963, contaminating soil, soil vapor, indoor air and groundwater with tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene. The PCE plume extends over two miles to the southeast of the 1100 block of Main Street.

A five-year review of the site by the EPA and NMED completed in September of 2017 found that the leading edge of the groundwater plume has expanded about 2,200 feet further to the southeast of the dry‐cleaning area since 2008. The EPA recommended that a public information campaign be conducted to notify well owners and users of well water in the area. It also recommended that private wells in and around the groundwater plume area should be sampled for these contaminants.

“Cleaning up contaminated sites is central to EPA’s mission of protecting human health and the environment,” said Regional Administrator Anne Idsal. “This grant further empowers the state of New Mexico and the city of Roswell to lead this effort at the McGaffey and Main site.”

“New Mexicans living in Roswell deserve to see this site cleaned up in a scientifically sound and timely manner,” said New Mexico Environment Department Secretary James Kenney. “Securing federal funding is a critical piece of ensuring that happens.”

The funding will allow NMED to lead the cleanup effort while involving other state and local partners, and to consult with the EPA before, during or after the cleanup in the interests of protecting human health and the environment. The money will also supplement remedial activities related to the cleanup and go toward paying for the work of characterizing the type and scope of the contamination.

Roswell, New Mexico, is believed by some to be the spot where an alien spacecraft crash-landed in 1947 but the U.S. government has always denied this.