KUNM

Poisoned Earth

Ed Williams

Over two decades ago, toxic dry cleaning chemicals seeped into the groundwater from a chemical distribution company’s warehouse near downtown Albuquerque. Today the plume spreads from Laun-Dry Supply Company about a mile and a half eastward towards I-25.

After a long investigation, the New Mexico Environment Department is poised to move forward with a full-scale cleanup of the chemical plume.

Ed Williams

When toxic chemicals are released into the environment, figuring out whether they’re making people sick can be a major challenge. It’s a problem the state is trying to solve now in the Sawmill and Wells Park neighborhoods near downtown Albuquerque, where an underground plume of dangerous dry cleaning solvents is flowing just beneath people’s homes and businesses. 

Rashad Mahmood / Public Health New Mexico

KUNM’s reporting series Poisoned Earth: Albuquerque’s Toxic Secret revealed that state officials had not studied health effects of a dry cleaning chemical spill on people who lived near the plume. 

Ed Williams

A chemical company has been testing the air inside homes for toxins near Downtown Albuquerque years after spilling dry-cleaning chemicals into the groundwater. So far, results show residents are not being exposed to chemicals.

Ed Williams

Editor's Note: A spokeswoman for the New Mexico Environment Department emailed with concerns about this story. We reviewed them and found no inaccuracies. We stand by our reporting. You can find a link to her email and read our response here.

Decades ago, a chemical business called Laun-Dry Supply Company leaked poisonous dry cleaning solvents into Albuquerque’s groundwater.

In the years since, nobody has investigated possible health impacts to people living near the contamination.

But that changed this week. On Wednesday, the New Mexico Environment Department started the process of testing houses for chemicals from the Laun-Dry spill.

Public Domain

Over a period of decades, cancer-causing solvents quietly seeped from a warehouse owned by Laun-Dry Supply Co. into the groundwater underneath dozens of homes and businesses near downtown Albuquerque. Today the plume of contamination stretches a mile and a half across the city, putting hundreds of people at risk of chemical exposure.

And government records show that employees of Laun-Dry were exposed to toxins from the plume. 

Ed Williams

The state’s Environment Department gave an update on the toxic plume of dry-cleaning solvents beneath downtown Albuquerque to neighbors and Bernalillo County’s water protection board last week. The meetings were the first time the plume’s risks to public health have been publicly discussed by the state.

A company that leaked toxic dry cleaning chemicals into the groundwater near downtown Albuquerque is planning to test the air in nearby homes to see if the chemicals pose a health risk to people living on top of the contamination. 

Rashad Mahmood-Public Health New Mexico

    

Editor's Note: A spokeswoman for the New Mexico Environment Department emailed with concerns about this story. We reviewed them and found no inaccuracies. We stand by our reporting. You can find a link to her email and read our response here. 

There is a problem with the groundwater in Albuquerque—a big problem. A plume of poisonous dry cleaning chemicals is flowing beneath the Sawmill and Wells Park neighborhoods, just north of downtown. The contamination stretches farther than the Kirtland Air Force Base jet fuel spill, and is much closer to the surface.