Belen residents worry dumpsite is filled with contaminated soil

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BELEN, N.M. (KRQE) – Imagine dump trucks suddenly showing up near your home and dropping piles of soil that smells like you know what. It’s happening now and neighbors want to know who gave it the okay and why.

Domino’s Pizza recently broke ground in Belen and is already looking for delivery drivers. However, as work on the restaurant begins, residents on Belen’s west mesa are upset about what’s being delivered to their neighborhood from the construction site.

“It smells to me somewhat like a sewer and sometimes it smells like petroleum products,” said Larry Fuller.

Last week, Larry Fuller said he noticed a distinct smell near his home. It wasn’t long before he discovered piles of soil that he believes may be contaminated just 400 yards from his house.

“It just kinda depends if the wind is blowing our direction like it is now, it’s pretty strong,” Fuller said.

Fuller said there used to be an auto dealership near the new Domino’s location, but it isn’t just the smell of oil that has Fuller concerned.

“If they are digging this up…because it can contaminate the water and stuff like that, why would they bring it out here and contaminate our water?” Fuller said.

While the soil is coming from Belen, Valencia County said it’s now investigating the dump site.

“When it comes to the county the thing we would be concerned with [is] really ensuring the city has enforced or required a mitigation plan as well as a hazardous materials dump plan,” said James Aranda, Valencia County Director of Community Development.

County officials said on Friday, the New Mexico Environment Department did take samples of the soil to see if it is contaminated.

“There are levels of contamination so if it’s below a certain point it will be considered acceptable by NMED,” Aranda said.

The soil is still being dumped while the county investigates. Officials said crews are working to flatten the piles so the chemicals evaporate better.

If the test results do come back with unacceptable levels of chemicals, the county can order crews to cease and desist and the soil would have to be removed.

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