Massive Mesa Del Sol fire draws call for action from Isleta Pueblo

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Days after a massive fire at a plastic storage facility in Mesa Del Sol, Isleta Pueblo invited city and state leaders to a meeting to discuss the ongoing environmental and health impacts.

“Our police department’s dispatch received many complaints – as did the governor’s office – about the odors that people were experiencing Sunday,” said Ramona Montoya, Isleta Pueblo environmental specialist. “We were notified by the Environmental Protection Agency that what was potentially being burned was hundreds of thousands of pounds of material, including resins, plastics, fuel, propane, and it wasn’t nice at all. The materials that burned are going to be with us, they are circulating in the environment and we need to address that as a group of governmental entities.”

Isleta Pueblo Gov. Max Zuni says he has concerns about the rapid industrial development directly north of the Pueblo, and the fire is a reminder of what risks those businesses pose.

Zuni invited officials from the City of Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, and the state to discuss his concerns about development and the environment.

Many agencies have already said they will be going to his meeting, including the New Mexico Environment Department. Department reps say Isleta Pueblo should have been a part of these types of conversations from the beginning.

“One of the things that the Environment Department is definitely advocating for is for the Isleta Pueblo to be a part of the LEPC, also known as Local Emergency Planning Committee,” said Stephen Connolly, incident response coordinator with NMED.

Tribal leaders say they want this conversation to be an LEPC meeting, discussing regulations, oversight, and enforcement of the new industries going into the area.

“One of the keywords in Governor Zuni’s invitation letter is enforcement,” Montoya said. “I think that people assume there is a good set of regulations out there to protect human health and the environment and whether or not that is occurring in an effective way is what is at question. I think opening up this dialog with multiple jurisdictions will be important for our area.”