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A Delay in the Camino Real Landfill Decision

By Tracy Dingmann

It looks like the City of El Paso’s decision last month to dispose of city waste within its own borders will delay the state Secretary of Environment’s decision on whether to grant a 10-year extension for the Camino Real landfill in Sunland Park, N.M.

New Mexico Environment Secretary Ron Curry issued an order today announcing that he will consider a motion filed by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center regarding the effect of the city’s of El Paso’s so-called “flow control” ordinance on the Camino Real extension.

Curry was originally supposed to decide this week whether to renew a permit for the controversial landfill, which takes in 90 percent of its waste from El Paso and various Mexican maquiladoras.

In the order, Curry indicated that he will take until Sept. 27 to consider any response to the motion, and until Oct. 7 to consider any replies. The order says he will issue “another order or a Second Final Order on or before Nov. 10, 2010.”

Curry’s take on a 10-year extension for the landfill was due in 2008 but was delayed by legal action over Curry’s decision to grant the project a one-year extension. A court ruled that Curry must either reject the project or give it a 10-year approval and gave him until this year to do.

What Does All Of This Mean?

Simply put, El Paso’s recent decision to handle its own waste within the city – instead of using private waste haulers and disposers – is destined to have a drastic effect on the Camino Real landfill.

That’s because the owners of the landfill, Waste Connections, Inc., included the vast amount of waste from the City of El Paso in its application for renewal of the permit. But with the city voting to handle its waste publically, the amount of waste going to the landfill will be drastically reduced.

In its motion, the Environmental Law Center argues that the drastic reduction in the amount of waste the landfill will now receive renders the application invalid.

Just The Latest Twist

It’s just the latest turn in an extremely twisty case that’s been going on since the landfill was established as the Nu-Mex Landfill back in 1990’s.

Residents have fought against the project for years, saying the huge amount of waste and dust generated by the landfill and the haulers poses an as yet unknown contamination risk to their land and water. They have pushed the state to order a comprehensive study of health risks to residents before considering another 10-year approval for the landfill.

Now it looks like the decision that was expected this week won’t happen until November.

Will the delay for Curry to reconsider the Law Center’s motion be a good sign or a bad one for the residents of Sunland Park?

We’ll just have to wait and see.

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