Toxic Hudson River sludge heading to Eunice, New Mexico

June 3, 2009 at 2:54 pm Leave a comment

A small town in south east New Mexico will soon be the host of 2.5 million cubic yards of toxic sludge from the Hudson River in New York.

The sludge is permeated by 1.3 million pounds of carcinogens called PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, which flowed to the Hudson from two General Electric plants for three decades before being banned in 1977.

According to a story in the New York Times article, the sludge will be wrapped in plastic bundles and transported cross country to the landfill just across the Texas border from Eunice, New Mexico, where it will be placed in a 75 foot deep pit:

At the landfill… excavators on platforms will rip open the bags and transfer the sludge to 110-ton mining trucks, starting in late June. The transfer will take place in a hangarlike building to shield the contaminated soil from the wind. The trucks will haul the sludge into a pit dug 75 feet into red clay and lined with two layers of heavy polyethylene. Then it will be covered over with at least three feet of clay.

Eunice will also soon be home to a uranium enrichment plant, as well, and if this NYT article is any indication, opinions in town are mixed. While political and business leaders are all for it, some residents told the Times that no public hearings had been held and that many in town won’t speak out against the landfill since area leaders are for it.

Mayor Matt White said the oil fields in and around Eunice already emit hazardous gases into the air, so area workers are already used to toxic chemicals. And the landfill will mean more jobs, he said. Another resident said that it would be good for the economy, considering there’s already a lot of chemicals in the air:

For miles around the town, pump jacks bob their mechanical heads like great birds pecking the earth. Power lines run like stitches over the high plains scrubland to power the pumps. The air is sour from the gases emitted by the wells and by three natural gas plants in town.

“We already have chemicals in the air here,” said Rocio Araujo, 18, who works at a coffeehouse and said she did not mind the PCB plan because the waste disposal business had infused new money into the oil economy. Beatrice Fabela, a barista at the coffee shop, grimaced when asked about the sludge. “I just hope it doesn’t end up another Erin Brockovich story,” she said. “I didn’t know about that being there. It’s kind of scary to think about.”

 By Marjorie Childress

New Mexico Independent

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Entry filed under: Dive In, Region, Working Waterfront. Tags: , .

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