By Cassie McClure and Suzanne Michaels
About 50 residents and almost 15 City staff members gathered on Dec. 10, 2019 at the East Mesa Public Safety Complex to discuss trash. Specifically, removing old trash from City-owned property alongside Lohman Avenue and across from MountainView Regional Medical Center. The old trash is in a pre-1965 dumpsite. It is an unlined 114-acre site that was used from 1959 to 1966, when Las Cruces had a population hovering near 30,000.
Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) Deputy Director of Environmental and Technical Support, Carl Clark, led the conversation about the start of the removal of waste in early 2020.
There are four separate waste areas, called “cells,” in which an LCU-conducted environmental study detailed the cells’ depth and what type of trash may lurk beneath the ground surface.
Residents’ questions were straightforward: What was in the landfill? Clark explained that deeply bored cylindrical samples showed most of the waste was construction debris.
“From what we can tell, there are plenty of roofing and ceiling tiles,” Clark said.
If asbestos was used at the time, could it have become “friable,” meaning easy to crumble or disperse in the nearby area? “Unlikely, based on the samples we’ve see,” Clark said. “However, should any questionable material be discovered by LCU staff, or its Environmental Consultant Parkhill, Smith & Cooper, Inc., as part of the waste removal team, we will have a highly trained asbestos mitigation company on contract for management of asbestos.”
Would the main access road to the nearby neighborhood, Paseo de Oñate, be a route into the site? “No,” Clark explained. Trucks - likely 20 to 30 loads per day during regular business hours - would use Sonoma Ranch Boulevard for access, then travel University Avenue toward I-10 and go out to Corralitos Regional Landfill 15 miles west of town for re-disposal of the old trash.
Since the waste cells will be excavated, any accumulated water that might exist would be captured within the cell and monitored for pests like mosquitos. Silt fencing will also help erosion control outside of the cells.
But, what about the final shape of the existing hills? With that question, the presentation moved on to Larry Nichols, City of Las Cruces (CLC) Community Development Director. City staff at the December 10 meeting included Community Development, Public Works, Economic Development, and CLC partner, South Central Solid Waste Authority (SCSWA).
Nichols said the roughly 114 acres would go through a master plan project in line with the City’s Comprehensive Plan. A consulting firm would survey the area, and with the input of residents through multiple public outreach sessions along with time for comments from the public.
“The master plan will respect the terrain of the site but will explore options of mixed-use development alongside trails and parks,” Nichols said.
On Thursday, December 12, the LCU Board of Commissioners approved three contracts for the CLC Lohman Property (Pre-1965 Foothills Landfill) waste excavation project to include the engineering support, equipment rental, and the asbestos mitigation. Lastly, the master plan will go through the Planning and Zoning Commission and then on to City Council.
You can reach Las Cruces Utilities at 575/528-3500 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Las Cruces Utilities provides GAS – WATER – WASTEWATER – SOLID WASTE services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.
It was a packed house at the East Mesa Public Safety Complex, with residents and City staf, to discuss a former City landfill used from 1959 to 1966. Staff answered questions from residents and outlined the steps going forward in 2020 with the waste excavation at the CLC Lohman Property (Pre-1965 Foothills Landfill) dumpsites near Lohman Avenue.
Note: This story was published Dec. 29, 2019 in the Las Cruces Sun-News.