Lawsuit filed against federal Government in Las Cruces water contamination case

DONA ANA COUNTY, NM (KTSM) - Doña Ana County and the City of Las Cruces filed a federal lawsuit against the United States, the U.S. Department of Defense and that National Guard Bureau on Wednesday, seeking damages and monetary relief relating to contaminated groundwater.

The issue dates back over fifteen years when Doña Ana County alleges that the government released hazardous substances during regular operations at the former National Guard Armory located at the corner fo East Hadley Ave. and North Solano Drive in Las Cruces.

The release of the substances allegedly created a plume of contaminated groundwater that was about 1.8 miles long and a half-mile wide.

The U.S. EPA has since designated the area as a federal Superfund Site, known as the Griggs & Walnut Groundwater Plume.

Investigating and remediation 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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