Las Cruces opens new facility to treat toxic water

Aug 23, 2012

A new water treatment facility opened in Las Cruces on Aug. 23 and is supposed to clean up water from a toxic Superfund site. The pollution was detected in the city’s water wells years ago, but a specific source for the contaminants remains elusive.

Federal, state and local officials were on hand to open the new facility, which will remove the chemical perchloroethylene from groundwater. PCE is a widely used in dry cleaning fabrics and for metal degreasing operations.

The contaminants are in the area of the Griggs and Walnut Groundwater Plume Superfund site. Four municipal drinking water supply wells were impacted. City officials said the wells are not being used. But one local family told KFOX Television that they are moving because their water is discolored and stinky.

The 5.2 million dollar project is jointly funded by the city of Las Cruces and Doña Ana County. It will use evaporation to clean the contaminated groundwater, said Dave Bary, public information officer for EPA Region 6.

"The stripper that’s being used actually pulls contaminated groundwater up and exposes the contaminated water to oxygen, which will volatilize the contaminate, perchlorethylene, leaving water that meets the standards of the Safe Drinking Water Act," he said.

Even though the site was placed on the National Priorities List in 2001, and EPA issued a Record of Decision in 2007, the precise source of the contamination has not yet been identified, Bary said.

"The entire matter is still under enforcement review. I’m not in a position to go into detail at this time," he said.