Environmental clean up at Rail Yards sheds light into historic past


The long-anticipated transformation of the iconic Albuquerque Rail Yards is starting, but not before assuring the 100-year-old locomotive hub is safe for the public.

“Every time I walk out here, I can hear the old sounds,” Bart Faris said. “I can hear the people working and so forth. It really is kind of cool.”

Faris met up with KRQE News 13 on Friday at the Rail Yards. He’s a full-time environmental health manager for the City of Albuquerque and a part-time history buff.

At the Rail Yards, there’s plenty of history to be had between the blacksmith shop turned market and the massive hoists still hanging in the glass-windowed buildings.

So, while Faris has to know some of it for his job, he also genuinely loves it.

“I am into the history. I mean this is part of Albuquerque,” he said.

As the city prepares to make the Rail Yards a place to gather, Faris and his team are helping render the once-bustling hub safe, starting with contaminated soil removal. It’s a multi-million dollar clean up job.

“They would use sand to take paint off and that paint sometimes was old from the locomotives, and it had lead in it,” he explained, pointing to an unearthed site at the Rail Yards in the parking lot area.

The city knows lead exists in this spot, but soil samples have been collected and are being sent off for testing to determine just how much.

Another spot on the property that has already been excavated is a place where batteries were stored for an unknown amount of time. They leaked lead and acid into the ground. The same sampling and testing process is happening here.

Another aspect of the environmental remediation at the site are monitors in slabs around the property keeping an eye on potentially toxic and concerning vapors that come up through the ground.

There’s 24 of these monitors and so far, nothing has turned up.

An additional 11 ground water monitors are producing positive results, too.

It appears our predecessors left the rail yards better off than expected, and now it’s our turn to give it new purpose.

“Environmentally, for rail yards, it’s not too bad and we want to make this a showcase and a place that Albuquerque is proud of, but uses it,” Faris said.

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