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Estancia Valley Solid Waste Authority Assists Town of Vaughn With Asbestos Fine

Illustration of potential asbestos exposure in a building

Last Thursday, the Estancia Valley Solid Waste Authority (EVSWA) decided to help the Town of Vaughn with its defunct landfill, asbestos pile, and accompanying fines from May.

Since asbestos is a hazardous substance, its waste must be disposed of in designated (Asbestos Containing Material) landfills where the area is prepped for asbestos waste in an effort to limit environmental exposures. The waste is then sealed to prevent human exposure.

“I think it’s a great combination to offer asbestos and construction-and-demolition debris. People can sort their loads and take advantage of the lower fee. I think a lot of the buildings that are being demolished are at that age where they have asbestos,” said EVSWA Manager Andy Miller.

In May, Vaughn was fined $214k by the New Mexico Environmental Department (NMED) as a result of an asbestos pile and defunct landfill. Since EVSWA has now stabilized the pile, the fine will go away.

“Forcing us to pay this put us in a financial bind. It will kill a little municipality,” stated Vaughn Mayor Roman Garcia at the meeting.

Also at the meeting, a few memorandums of understanding (MOU) were approved. They included EVSWA applying to NMED for a construction, demolition, and asbestos monofill landfill permit to be issued to Vaughn and that EVSWA will operate the landfill.

The other MOUs were for scrap tire transportation and processing in Mountainair, as well as scrap tire processing in San Juan County. The county is willing to transport scrap tires to the EVSWA regional landfill that will process and dispose of the tires.

In fact, New Mexico is home to six natural asbestos deposits due to its unique geology. Four of the deposits are chrysotile and two from amphibole minerals.

Two power plants with asbestos are also located in the state. The Four Corners Power Plant and the San Juan Powerhouse are where workers have been at an elevated risk for asbestos exposure.

In 2003, the Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) was named a defendant in 20 asbestos complaints and had been sued over a case of secondary exposure right before that.

Studies have shown 3% of power plant workers who die of work-related causes are those who have contracted mesothelioma cancer. Because the dangerous substance is flame-and electrical-resistant, it was used in power plants for over 50 years.

“We’ll see how busy it is. This year will be a good test,” said Miller.