A 'green development' next to a toxic dump

  Dear HCN,
I read with great interest the article about Mesa del Sol, "Project mixes suburbs with nature preserve" (HCN, 2/3/03: Project mixes suburbs with nature preserve). The article failed to elaborate one aspect of this "community of 100,000 people, living amid open space and restored rangeland": It’s also located next to a Cold War toxic waste dump. The Mixed Waste Landfill is a 2.6-acre radioactive and hazardous waste dump located less than a mile from the border of La Semilla, where the Allan Savory Center for Holistic Management will be constructing its "international headquarters."

Statements made by DOE that the Mixed Waste Landfill "poses no short-or long-term environmental concerns to the Mesa del Sol development" are completely without scientific merit. The landfill contains over 40 types of radioactive waste products, including both short and long-lived nuclides such as cobalt, plutonium, cesium and strontium, and large quantities of toxic metals like lead and depleted uranium.

As far as the conservative water use plan that will be implemented by Mesa del Sol, that’s definitely up for discussion. The estimated 50 gallons per person per day x 100,000 residents at Mesa del Sol = 5,000,000 gallons per day, which adds up to 1,825,000,000 gallons per year. This estimate accounts for only the residential water usage at Mesa del Sol. This is still a lot of water for our fragile high desert environment in New Mexico when one considers our continuing drought, growing population, polluted river, and a mayor who has fought for continued development.

So where is all that water needed to sustain the Mesa del Sol going to come from? For starters, from Albuquerque’s severely depleted aquifer, followed in the not-so-distant future by water from wells drilled in the same aquifer shared by Mesa del Sol’s neighbor, the Mixed Waste Landfill. We hope the developer — and Mesa del Sol’s future residents — are aware of the liabilities and potential health issues associated with building a community next to a toxic waste dump.

Sue Dayton
Albuquerque, New Mexico

The writer is director of Citizen Action, a coalition of nongovernmental groups and neighborhood associations working for cleanup of the Mixed Waste Landfill.
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