By Jack King
The Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railway Co. will hold an open house Thursday at Santa Fe Lake to celebrate the removal of the lake from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund National Priorities List.
The open house will be from 2 to 4 p.m. at the lake site on South Main Street across from Navajo Road in Clovis. Representatives from BNSF, the EPA, the New Mexico Environment Department, Curry County and the city of Clovis will be available to answer questions about the lake.
Santa Fe Lake was one of the first Superfund sites listed in New Mexico, said EPA spokeswoman Petra Sanchez. It was added to the National Priorities List in 1983 and was formally deleted from the list in March, she said.
“This is good news. It’s always a positive thing when a site can be taken off the list. It wasn’t until BNSF met the cleanup criteria we originally set that Santa Fe Lake could be taken off the list,” Sanchez said.
She said 20 years is not an unusually long time to complete a remediation.
“It depends on the type of remedy required,” she said.
Santa Fe Lake is a playa lake located about one mile south of the BNSF railroad yard in Clovis. Beginning in the early 1900s wastewater was discharged from the yard into the lake. In the late 1970s the USEPA conducted an environmental site investigation. Preliminary reports from that investigation indicated that heavy metals, total petroleum hydrocarbons and cyanide were present in the lake, according to a BNSF press release.
Clean up of the site began with the installation of a fence to limit access. Next a dike and moat were constructed around the lake to prevent rainfall runoff from entering it. This allowed water in the lake to evaporate and exposed sediments in the lake bed for treatment, BNSF said.
Treatment included dredging lake bed sediment to aerate it and adding microbes to the sediment to degrade the hydrocarbons. Some of the sediment was moved to a lined, on-site facility where monitoring wells have been installed to ensure pollutants do not leak into ground water, Sanchez said.
“Overall the treatment process included approximately 5,600 soil and sediment samples and the treatment of 57,245 cubic yards of sediments and 125,235 cubic yards of soil,” said Rob Werner, BNSF’s manager of environmental remediation in Fort Worth, Texas.