Army agrees to $1.5 million settlement for pollution at former depot

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Maggie Hart Stebbins

SANTA FE, NM — The U.S. Army has reached an agreement with Zuni Pueblo, the Navajo Nation and the State of New Mexico to pay $1.5 million to repair environmental damage to an old munitions dump.

The proposed settlement filed in federal court relates to Fort Wingate, a former Army installation near Gallup that was used as an ammunition storage and disposal site before it was closed in 1993.

Under the proposed settlement announced by state officials last week, approximately $1 million would go to restoration projects, $117,000 to damages to cultural services and $314,000 to cover past and future costs of the office of the state natural resource trustee.

The restoration work will be in addition to ongoing cleanup at the site, which the state Department of Environment has overseen since 2005.

“This has been in the works for a long time, and we are thrilled to have completed the settlement and released funds for the communities that have been impacted,” Natural Resources Administrator Maggie Hart Stebbins told the Santa Fe New Mexican. .

The agreement is subject to court approval after a 30-day comment period.

Hart Stebbins said she expects the court to approve it fairly quickly because there is no point of contention. Restoration work will then be put out to tender, she said.

Zuni Pueblo Governor Val Panteah hailed the settlement, saying the tribe looks forward to working with the state’s natural resources administrator and the Navajo Nation to “restore the health and productivity of these ancestral lands.” .

Both tribes have long-standing historical ties to the lands in and around the Old Munitions Dump, which spans approximately 24 square miles (62 square kilometers) that is almost entirely surrounded by land owned or federally administered, including national and tribal forests. lands.

The site includes earth-covered igloos and earth revetments that were used to store ammunition as well as large areas of buffer zones. It also has an industrial area and another area that housed offices, housing and warehouses.

Pollution issues at the site include soil and water contaminated with hazardous waste and unexploded ordnance. Cleanup work involves finding, disarming and removing explosives.

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