The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By Jack King 

Public works asks for cleanup funds


Monitoring well number five at the Clovis land fill was the first well to detect levels of Perchloroethylene from the old city land fill. CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth

Clovis’ Public Works Department will ask the city commission to approve spending $117,000 to fund the first steps in cleaning up a half-mile-long plume of toxic solvent that is contaminating ground water beneath the old city landfill, Public Works Director Harry Wang said Tuesday.

City commissioners will consider the request at their Sept. 18 meeting, Wang said.

Wang told members of the city’s Public Works Committee his department will pay Camp, Dresser & McKee Inc., an Albuquerque engineering firm, $13,000 to design a system of pumps and pipes to send contaminated ground water through the city’s wastewater treatment system to its storage pond, and $104,000 to conduct tests to determine the source of the contamination.

Wang said in May that the city has found perchloroethylene, a toxic solvent used as a cleaner in several industries, in concentrations of 50 parts per billion — 10 times the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standard — in the soil and ground water under the old city landfill.

Beginning somewhere under the old landfill site, the plume is heading east in the Ogallala Aquifer and appears to be moving at about 20 feet per year. The plume has not left city land and, so far, has only affected city monitoring wells, said Ed Hansen, a hydrologist with the Environment Department.

Hansen said the state has required the city of Clovis to conduct the tests because determining the plume’s point of origin is an important part of the cleanup process.

“If the source is deeper, a more elaborate (cleanup) system will have to be built. If it’s not so deep, the system will not have to be so elaborate,” he said.

If the source of the pollution is deep under ground, a “dry gas venting system” with fans might be used to draw the volatile solvent to the surface as a gas and vent it. If the source is more shallow, a passive venting system could be used, Hansen said.

Cleaning up the contaminated ground could take a month to two years. Cleaning up the contaminated ground water could take from five to 10 years, Hansen said.

He said the city of Clovis is on schedule in dealing with the problem.

Wang said the city has about $600,000 in its landfill financial assurance account that the state has authorized it to spend on the cleanup process. While $600,000 will pay the capital costs of constructing the cleanup system, it will cost an additional $20,000 to $30,000 a year to pump the groundwater, for an indeterminate period of time, “hopefully 10 years,” he said.

“This is a can of worms,” Wang said.


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