Arroyos packed with trash, encampments spark concern ahead of monsoon

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Neighbors in Albuquerque’s Snow Heights neighborhood can find new encampments and piles of trash on a daily basis.

“I feel like it’s been more problematic probably over the past two years and it’s just continued,” said Linda Wood, a woman who has lived in the neighborhood for four years.

With monsoon approaching, and a flash flood warning just this week, she knows her neighborhood eye sores could become dangerous or even deadly.

“There was a shopping cart and a wheelchair. And then I actually got out and looked and there was just a ton of stuff under the bridge, I mean a lot, the whole underneath was filled,” said Wood.

“I thought ‘Oh my gosh I better go back down there and warn these people,’ because I mean really, they could get washed away.”

She went to her Nextdoor app to start a conversation about possible solutions. A couple of neighbors suggested clean up days, and thanked Wood for caring enough to speak up.

“Honestly it’s a lot to have to do but at the same time with a lot of people we can get that done,” said Wood.

Leaders like AMAFCA’s executive engineer, Jerry Lovato, appreciate the effort.

“We have 24 employees. And those 24 employees take care of basically 350 square miles and protect the life and property of 660,000 people,” said Lovato. “Thank God for cell phones and Nextdoor, because those reports go out and people open their windows and look and we get that bad information.”

Lovato says between enforcing new city ordinances about staying out of flood control facilities and running water projects to remove trash and debris, they’re making good progress.

“Last year was the first year after over six years that we did not have a fatality. And that’s something we’re really proud of,” said Lovato.

Other city departments are staying on alert these days too.

A representative from the Solid Waste Management Department told KOB 4:

“The Solid Waste Management Department (SWMD) has encampment crews working 5 days a week, assisting with other departments on an as-needed basis to address homeless encampments, including those in arroyos. SWMD encourages people to report concerns about arroyo safety to 311.”

A representative from Albuquerque Community Safety said:

“In the case of a flash flood warning, Albuquerque Community Safety Responders conduct outreach at arroyos, warning individuals of potential hazards. This includes the Embudo Arroyo where Responders recently conducted outreach. The individuals in the arroyo thanked our Responders for the advance notice. This is an example of how we achieve our mission of providing the right response at the right time while promoting the safety and well-being of individuals in our community.”