New Mexico

Federal lawsuit filed in Las Cruces contaminated groundwater case

The City of Las Cruces and Doña Ana County have filed a federal lawsuit against the United States, the United States Department of Defense and the National Guard Bureau seeking damages and declaratory relief relating to contaminated groundwater.

In the complaint, filed Aug. 8 in the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, the city and county maintain that the federal defendants released hazardous substances during operations at the former National Guard Armory located near the northeast corner of East Hadley Avenue and North Solano Drive in Las Cruces, and that the release of those substances created a plume of contaminated groundwater approximately 1.8 miles long and a half-mile wide.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has designated the area a federal Superfund Site, known as the Griggs & Walnut Ground Water Plume.

Investigating and remediating the Superfund Site has been a collaborative effort that began in 2004 with an agreement between the city and county to clean up the contamination in the aquifer. Since then, the city and county have shared in the decision-making, costs and negotiations with EPA and the New Mexico Environmental Department.

The groundwater treatment plant constructed by the city and county went online in July of 2012 and is expected to treat an estimated 6.82 to 9.42 billion gallons of contaminated drinking water over the next 15 to 20 years.

In the lawsuit, the city and county allege that the federal government is liable for the contamination, and they seek an order compelling the federal government to assist with ongoing costs of cleanup, as well as to recover costs already incurred to build and operate the water treatment plant.

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