As the southern population of Dona Ana County continues to grow alongside a multi-million dollar railroad hub in Santa Teresa, the county is putting in place a modern, state-of-the-art facility with the capabilities of handling a variety of hazardous-materials emergencies.
Construction for the Dona Ana County Emergency and Hazmat Response Station began just after the New Year. It will be located at the Dona Ana County Airport in Santa Teresa, and – weather permitting – should be open and ready for use by the end of June. The total cost of the project is $1.3 million.
Dona Ana County Fire Marshal Robert Monsivaiz said the county has already purchased equipment for the hazmat fleet. Currently, a cargo trailer and a mobile unit acquired through various grants are currently kept under a shelter at the airport.
“The new building will allow us to add to that fleet, and will enable us to better maintain what we have so that it can remain in service longer,” said Monsivaiz.
The mobile unit contains chemical suits, decontamination equipment and monitors to assess the levels of contamination before hazmat crews are sent into potentially dangerous situations.
“This type of facility is a vital part of Fire and Emergency Services, especially in that part of the county where the probability of a chemical spill is higher than other areas,” said Monsivaiz, who led a team of first responders charged with containing a chemical spill after a 13-car derailment in Sunland Park in the late 1990s. “If we should ever be faced with a situation like that, Dona Ana County will be ready to respond.”
Monsivaiz said the county currently has agreements in place with neighboring emergency service providers in White Sands Missile Range, NASA, and the City of Las Cruces. Those agreements would enable them to assist Dona Ana County Fire and Emergency Services in hazmat situations until the new facility is complete. After that, the agreements will remain to supplement the force.
There are currently 14 firefighters who are trained in hazmat situations, with plans to expand training so that all firefighters will receive the same certification, said Monsivaiz.