August 30, 2022

Proposal would use $566K in settlement funds for ABCWUA wastewater outfall project

Settlement funding to remediate groundwater at two Superfund sites in Albuquerque could be used to partially fund the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority’s Southside Wastewater Reclamation Plant Outfall Restoration project.

The Office of Natural Resources Trustee is seeking public comments on a proposal to use $566,000 of money remaining from settlements in the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Tie-Treater and South Valley Superfund cases to help the outfall restoration project.

The ONRT reached two settlements in the early 2000s that resulted in about $5.8 million of funding for projects to improve groundwater quality and restore habitat. Of that $5.8 million, $566,000 remains.

The ATSF Tie-Treater site operated as a railroad tie treating facility from 1908 until 1972 and is located near the Rio Grande State Park. The operations included use of wood treatment products that released hazardous substances into the groundwater. Additionally, the facility damaged wildlife habitat, according to the draft addendum to the restoration plans.

Meanwhile, the South Valley site was the location of industrial operations starting in the 1950s and releases of volatile organic compounds from the facility contaminated both soil and groundwater resources, the documents state.

The state has already completed several restoration projects using the settlement money.

The ONRT reached out to local groups to solicit restoration project ideas and the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority submitted a proposal to improve areas both upstream and downstream of the water authority’s Southside Wastewater Reclamation Plant’s outfall channel.

The draft addendum states that the proposed project would improve surface water quality and also provide seasonal benefits to groundwater systems. Additionally, it would improve public access by developing new public trails that will provide access to the bosque. It will also lead to both riparian and floodplain habitat improvements in and along the Rio Grande, which could help species like the Rio Grande silvery minnow.

The project itself would occur just west of the two sites.

The water authority does have some funding to help with the project, including about $1.07 million in capital outlay money. It is also applying for a $1.6 million grant from the New Mexico River Stewardship Program and plans on applying for grant funding from the New Mexico Water Trust Board.

The settlement funding from the two sites could help with the construction phase of the project.

Public comments will be accepted through Sept. 30 and can be submitted through an online portal or by emailing nm.onrt@state.nm.us. They can also be mailed to New Mexico Office of Natural Resources Trustee, 121 Tijeras NE, Suite 1000, Albuquerque, NM 87102.