New Mexico State Land Office Remediation Project Uncovers Massive Buried Illegal Dumping Site In Lea County

NMSLO News:

SANTA FE — In the course of completing remediation project work to clean up a former caliche mining pit on state trust land near Eunice, New Mexico State Land Office staff and contractors working on the project uncovered a massive, buried illegal dumping site.

Oil and gas companies use caliche, a shallow deposit of naturally formed limestone, as foundation material for roads and well pads to support heavy equipment.

The state trust land site in question was last active and leased in the 1970s. The project was approved in an effort to remediate the site for future use.

Since last being leased, the 3.25 acre site had been illegally used to dispose of concrete, miscellaneous trash and tires. The goal of the initial project was to clean up and safely dispose of waste, re-contour the area, and seed native vegetation.

Trash and tires not visible prior to the project beginning were found buried under the surface and included 35 tons of trash and 8 tons of tires. This discovery made for a longer term, more costly remediation project than expected.

To properly dispose of all trash and tires found at the site required an additional $45,000 from the State Land Office’s Restoration and Remediation Fund. Work to safely remove and dispose of all trash and tires is ongoing. 

“The State Land Office has an obligation to steward state trust land so that it can benefit future generations. Projects such as this, a massive trash and tire removal effort, represent an important part of fulfilling that obligation,” Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard said. “Illegal dumping is a legacy issue at the State Land Office as well as in New Mexico. I’m committed to doing what we can to remedy that issue by pushing funds toward these types of projects, but most importantly by seeking accountability.”

Based on site inspections leading up to approval of the initial remediation project, State Land Office staff have reason to believe that the trash and tires found buried were illegally dumped in the 1970s or 1980s. A report has been filed by the State Land Office to the New Mexico Environment Department for an environmental assessment.   

“Accountability includes using the tools at our disposal to find the bad actors responsible for messes on state trust land. This site was likely trashed long before we had high frequency satellite imagery helping us protect state trust land in the Permian, but we have still reported it to the appropriate regulatory agency and are working in partnership to crack down on illegal dumping on state trust land,” Garcia Richard added.

View images of Pit 359 before trash and tire removal.

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