Council hears update on industrial park sludge


The mayor of Socorro updated the council on sludge found at the city’s industrial park during the Socorro City Council’s regular meeting April 15. The mayor said the mess has been cleaned up, but the state Environment Department still awaits testing results to see if the sludge is toxic.

The city held a public hearing regarding its sale of five acres in its industrial park to Blue Collar Construction LLC for $91,000. According to the city’s ordinance for the sale, Blue Collar has been leasing the land about three years.

Not many city residents attended the April 15 meeting. When no one offered to share comments at the public hearing, Mayor Ravi Bhasker brought up the sludge.

Bhasker discussed a television news story that aired in early April regarding a dog that died within days of allegedly falling into a puddle of sludge on land Blue Collar leases from the city. Bhasker said the city has no information on the dog’s actual cause of death, but Blue Collar has since cleaned up the mess. He said the state Environment Department responded favorably to Blue Collar’s cleanup.

Bhasker said he hadn’t seen the Environment Department’s report on the sludge emulsion.

“That emulsion, from my understanding, is water and oil and also tar, which eventually hardens and does not seep into the ground,” Bhasker said.

During an interview Monday, Socorro Chamber of Commerce director Terry Tadano said he has not seen a written report from the Environment Department about the emulsion, but the department verbally informed him April 26 that the emulsion was asphalt that hadn’t hardened because it didn’t have gravel mixed in. Tadano said asphalt is not toxic unless it is heated, which is when workers have to wear masks to apply it to a road.

Jerry Ford, inspector with the Environment Department’s Socorro field office, said during a telephone interview Tuesday that the thick, tarlike substance is asphalt, but the department is still waiting for the test results to make certain the substance isn’t toxic.

“We took samples, and we haven’t got the results back yet,” Ford said.

Ford did not know when the results of the testing will be available.

Bhasker, during the council meeting, said Blue Collar also cleaned up a second mess near an arroyo, and put “speed bumps” in the arroyo in case of another spill so nothing would be carried downstream. He said there is a big pile on the property where Blue Collar put the materials it cleaned up.

“The bottom line is, it would be nicer if the city would not have been cited in any fashion on that news story,” Bhasker said. “It’s a news story, but they obviously never do any follow-ups, for whatever reason. But I’m giving you a follow-up: Basically, the Environmental Department was there … (and) was happy with the cleanup.”

Ford said Tuesday that the Environment Department did inspect the site after Blue Collar’s cleanup. As for whether the department is satisfied with the cleanup, Ford said that will depend on the samples and their test results.

Bhasker said during the council meeting that the only matters still outstanding were the Environment Department’s reports on the emulsion testing and the arroyo cleanup site. He didn’t think there were any further issues since the city had not been contacted further.

“But that’s for the public’s benefit, and I’m sure that question was out there,” Bhasker said about his update.

The council then ended the public hearing and unanimously approved second reading of the ordinance for the city’s land sale to Blue Collar Construction. City clerk Pat Salome said the public has 45 days from the date of the meeting, April 15, to offer comment on the land sale before paperwork on the sale is finalized.

In other business, the Socorro City Council:

• Approved first reading of amendments to the appeals process of the Police Oversight Commission. Salome said the POC has been meeting about seven months and has found its appeals process to be cumbersome.

• Approved first reading of the rodeo facility loan ordinance. The ordinance states the city will borrow about $1.5 million from the New Mexico Finance Authority to build the city’s rodeo and sports facilities. The loan will be repaid with lodgers’ tax money.

• Agreed to proceed with a purchase of 1,600 square feet of property by JO Gallegos Road from Toby Saiz.

• Approved a task order for runway maintenance at the municipal airport.

• Adopted amended documents for the radio meter replacement project. City finance director Mable Gonzales explained the New Mexico Finance Authority did not approve the original documents because there was a mistake, so the NMFA amended some of the wording. She said the added language includes that the city will pay a 1 percent issuance cost, which is normal for an NMFA loan agreement.

• Approved a budget increase request for the water line replacement project. The resolution states the increase is needed to allow for the 50/50 NMFA loan/Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund subsidy.

• Approved a budget increase request for the Sedillo Park renovation fund. The resolution states the increase is to allow for expenditures through June, the end of the fiscal year.

• Approved two in-house budget resolutions to clean up line items in city departments.


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