Las Cruces Groundwater Cleanup To Begin

Las Cruces – Construction is set to begin on a facility to extract the chemical perchloroethylene, commonly referred to as PCE, from groundwater in the area of Griggs Avenue and Walnut Street in central Las Cruces known as the Griggs and Walnut Ground Water Plume Superfund Site.

In separate actions this morning, both the Las Cruces City Council and the Do a Ana Board of County Commissioners gave approval for construction of a tray aerator. The system exposes the impacted water from two off-line municipal wells to oxygen, which dissipates the PCE. The cleansed water is then suitable for drinking. The project, jointly funded by the city and county, is expected to cost $3.5 to $4 million. The funding will come in the form a New Mexico Finance Authority Drinking Water Loan. Construction is scheduled to be completed in May 2012.

"This is proven technology," said City of Las Cruces Utilities Director Jorge Garcia. "We are not designing or constructing a new form of remediation. This technology has been around a long time and has proven its effectiveness time and time again. It's the ideal solution for this situation," Garcia said.

In addition to beginning construction, today's action by both bodies will allow time to develop a consent decree between the city, county, the Environmental Protection Agency and the state and federal National Guards for additional funding to finance project operation and maintenance costs for the project's duration, which could be up to 15-years and $20 million.

"We're anxious to get going on cleaning up the groundwater from the impacted area. It's been a long process to get us to this point and we're eager to proceed," said City Manager Robert Garza.

A joint city-county investigation determined that the National Guards are the source of the contamination for using PCE as a metal degreaser between the 1950s and 1970s at a former armory site near the intersection of Solano Drive and Hadley Avenue. The chemical was disposed of directly on to the ground and found its way into the groundwater. The contamination was first detected through routine water sampling in 1996. The PCE was discovered in wells 18 and 27. Both wells were immediately taken off line and have remained off line ever since.