Hidden in plain sight: City spends thousands on remediation of old landfills

CABQ Landfills.Consolidated.01_frame_20991_1529707625229.png.jpg

What used to be landfills outside of town are now old landfills buried in town.

They’re scattered throughout the City of Albuquerque, right in busy business sectors and neighborhoods, with crews constantly working to clean them up.

Take the Sheraton at the Sunport, for example. It sits on top of what was a dumping ground from 1948 to 1965. 

The city says it’s been working diligently to make these closed-down landfills safe. Some have already reached that standard, about nine others are still in the works. 

It’s not an easy process. Regulations of yesteryear pale in comparison to today’s environmental standards.

“Especially these old ones that weren’t lined or anything to do any kind of control. Back at the time when these were in operation, all kinds of stuff got thrown in the trash without a second thought,” said Mark DiMenna with the Environmental Health Department. 

The biggest defunct landfill in the city is the Los Angeles, although many know it as the empty lot used by RVs during Balloon Fiesta.

“We have some definite known issues here. It was in operation recently enough that there’s still quite a bit of methane still coming out of it and a risk for it to migrate underground and offsite, so methane removal and monitoring and then destruction,” DiMenna said.

It’s safe to walk on and for the RVs to use, but they are not allowed to use open flames in the vicinity due to the threat of an underground fire. Balloons, of course, are discouraged from landing there.

So how do we fix these landfills and pay to do that?

Voters decide on GO Bonds every other year as one method.

“For all of the work that’s done every year, there’s roughly $400,000 in operating costs, and then a similar amount to pay for the staff that does the actual work,” he said.

Another is the fees tucked into your garbage bill.

“There’s an ongoing cost to make sure something somebody used decades ago isn’t causing problems for us today,” he said.

There’s no need to panic if live or work near one of these sites DiMenna said. Crews constantly monitor the sites to keep the public safe and meet environmental standards. 

It could take decades to fully deal with these landfills.

For a link to the city’s website with a map of the landfills, click here.

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