ESPANOLA (KRQE) - Three buildings, recently torn down in Espanola, ended up buried on private land in Rio Arriba County rather than in a landfill as required by law, according to a county official.
The man who dumped the remains of the buildings told KRQE News 13 he was just doing what he was told. Further, Chris Martinez of Martinez Trucking in Espanola said it would have cost too much to dispose of the material legally.
"Oh yes, it would have been really expensive," Martinez said.
"So it sounds like people are taking short cuts," said News 13 Reporter Dean Staley.
"Probably right," Martinez said.
Two of the buildings that were buried on private property north of Espanola used to stand at 1202 Riverside Drive in Espanola, where a new CVS Pharmacy was recently built.
"It's a disgusting pattern," said Lucia Sanchez, assistant community development director at the Rio Arriba Planning and Zoning Department . "It seems to be a pattern by the same individuals, who are in business and should know better."
Sanchez showed a reporter around the illegal landfill north of Espanola recently, pointing out what could be toxic materials.
"What you see here is debris – oil, trash, asphalt, you name it," Sanchez said. "The person doing the demolition is required to make sure that all this debris ends up in a designated landfill. That did not happen."
And that isn't the only Espanola project where commercial waste never made it to a landfill.
The remains of another building that stood about a mile south of the CVS site also ended up buried on private land a few miles away in Rio Arriba County.
That building, which was owned by former Espanola Mayor Richard Lucero, also was dumped by Chris Martinez.
Martinez said Lucero paid him $3,000 to dump the debris, which would have cost $15,000 if had been done properly. Lucero told him where to dump the remains and he didn't ask questions, he said.
News 13 asked Martinez if he felt any responsibility about where the debris was dumped.
"That never even crossed my head," Martinez said. "I should have asked questions and said, ‘OK, give me your permits, give me all that …' (but) I didn't at the time …"
Lucero said recyclers hauled off the lumber and the metal from his building to re-use it. He said he paid Martinez to haul away the remaining concrete, but he has no idea where it ended up.
As for the CVS site, Martinez said representatives of Espanola businessman Richard Cook hired him to dump those building remains.
"They hired me to haul it to their place," he said. "It's near my house."
Martinez said he merely did as he was told and didn't ask any questions. He said he doesn't know if either of the sites where he recently dumped building remains were licensed to receive that kind of waste.
"I don't even know if they got their permits or not," Martinez said. "They hire me for my services, for my truck. And if I ask questions all those times, I don't get any business."
Cook did not a return a phone message seeking comment.
Both Martinez and Lucero said one major problem is that Rio Arriba County doesn't have its own landfill. And that adds a lot to the cost of demolition because waste must be transported to landfills in Santa Fe or Los Alamos, they said.
But it's not just the mess that concerns Sanchez and others at Rio Arriba County. While signs of asbestos have been found at one of the dumpsites, no one really knows what was in those old buildings. Consequently, no one knows the potential affects on county residents' health and the environment.
The county is working with the state Environment Department, which could pursue criminal charges and in fines against those involved, as well as forcing the illegal landfills to be cleaned up.
"It's all profit when you bury it on your own land instead of taking it to a landfill where you might have to pay tipping fees," Sanchez said. "It's embarrassing and it's quite a shame to see such a beautiful place like Rio Arriba County trashed."
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