After a tense community meeting where Taos Ski Valley officials were pressed on their decision to dump contaminated soil in an area near homes and the Río Grande, the corporation announced the dirt will be moved to a site near Bloomfield.
Taos Ski Valley, Inc. hosted a "town hall" style meeting Friday (Nov. 10) at the KTAOS Solar Center that was intended to focus on the renovations to the ski area. But most people in the room were there to voice their concerns about the environment, their health and what they saw as a lack of transparency.
"If it's not safe for TSV, it's probably not safe for our area," said one West Rim resident and longtime skier. "I have a lot of questions."
In August, crews working to reshape part of a ski run discovered a buried pocket of soil contaminated with diesel fuel. Enough fuel leaked to threaten human health. Furthermore, the dirt was within feet of the water table, so the Ski Valley moved the soil to a TSV-owned site about one mile west of the Río Grande Gorge Bridge.
Crews relocated about 675 cubic yards of dirt to the West Rim in mid-September, where it was left in piles.
The state gave verbal approval for the move, but an application to remediate the soil on-site is still pending.
The audience at Friday's meeting waited until after the formal presentation about high-speed ski lifts and other improvements but peppered officials – including CEO David Norden – with demands for scientific studies to assure West Rim residents "we're not at risk."
While the New Mexico Environment Department determined the contaminated soil wasn't an issue for ground water, residents there worried the dirt could become airborne and get into their water-catchment systems. Still others are concerned for the water quality of the Río Grande and the impact to downriver residents.
Sheryl Romero, a member of the Pueblo Water Protectors, called for an extensive and site-specific environmental review of the remediation plan.
"Everything you're saying can be done another way...We're listening, we're watching," Romero said.
Norden told the crowd the Ski Valley would host another meeting focused on the contaminated soil. It would be scheduled for the next two or three weeks, Norden told The Taos News following the meeting.
Yet today (Nov. 13), TSV announced it would move the dirt to a site near Bloomfield that's already permitted for soil remediation.
"[Taos Ski Valley] values the opinions of its community greatly and appreciated the opportunity for an open dialogue on the program," according to a statement from Ski Valley director of sales and marketing Sandy Chio.
"With guidance from the experts, [TSV] has decided to relocate the soils in question...in a timely manner which could be as early as this week," it read.
"We are open to a follow-up meeting pending community interest," Chio told The Taos News Monday.
Correction: The Taos News initially reported the dirt would be moved to a site in Farmington. However, it will be moved to a site near Bloomfield, about half an hour away. Shana Reeves, director of communication with the City of Farmington, said some locals were outraged, prompting the local government to release a statement assuring Farmington residents no contaminated dirt would be relocated to their city.