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Letter To The Editor: Significant Soil Contamination At Los Alamos Horse Stables

on March 15, 2017 - 5:40am
By OLGA CHERTKOV
Los Alamos

I have read the letter to the Los Alamos Daily Post from JoAnn Johnson, “North Mesa Stable Area Objections Are Much Ado About Nothing!”, and I see that she does not care at all about opinion of other citizens of Los Alamos, her ignorance looks like this:

... You should be happy to live next to my horse … She was there first … you have no choice … waste of time and resources … There will be no changes… .

Her argument that in the 1960’s the horse stables were considered free from contaminations holds no merit today, 50 years later. During the last 50 years the horse stables have become enclosed by residential communities and have become too polluted to be ignored. Presently, new studies, undertaken by the CDC, illustrate the dangers of living near contaminated animal feeding environments. Furthermore, since the 1960’s our understanding of groundwater, soil and air pollution has advanced, and, consequently, so too have our health and environmental standards. As such, I believe it is time to reevaluate the health impact of the stables on the nearby community.

I have lived in Los Alamos since 1999 and on North Mesa since 2001. As a property taxpayer, I expect some of the money which I have paid to be spent on maintaining adequate infrastructure and environmental health. Having said this, I believe the horse stables located on North Mesa are a public nuisance, and have continued posing a threat to public health. Below I outline the nuisances and considerations for public health.

  • Stench of horse manure;
  • Flies (insect vectors for all kind of diseases);
  • Based on tests conducted by the County, soil contamination of certain plots in the stables is confirmed;
  • Water runoff considerations based on soil contaminations of horse stable plots;
  • Air contamination with landfill gases: Ammonia, Hydrogen sulfide, Methane, etc., coming from rotting on site manure. These gases are especially harmful for small children. We need to test air quality in two schools that are located less than a mile from horse stables: LA Middle School and Barranca School;
  • Bad visual appearance (rotten, rusted and dilapidated buildings, no building code in place;
  • Dead vegetation on Horse Stables site and around the area;
  • Horse stables are misused as a parking lot for agricultural equipment storage;
  • Likewise, the horse stables are misused as a dump for trash (old tires, gas cylinders, oil barrels, rusted equipment behind lot # 30). The owner of this lot has been warned last summer to remove this trash, but did nothing for almost a year; and
  • Rude horse owners. They leave manure ‘bombs’ on a pedestrian paved trail, where they are not supposed to come and do nothing to comply with the public or County demands. Their ignorance is appalling.

I have contacted Los Alamos County a few times with my concerns, as did my neighbors and friends. Based on our meetings with County officials, the County agreed to conduct soil tests. The results of these soil tests show significant amounts of nitrates, phosphates, salts and metals (sample # 3 in a table) compared to control sample from the canyon below (sample #2) and canyon wall below stables with dead vegetation (sample #1). I believe the quantities of nitrates, phosphates, salts and metals (10 to 100 times higher than control levels) are responsible for the dead vegetation at the Horse Stables site.

This problem with animal holdings is not constrained to Los Alamos. The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Preventions) has spent extensive time studying these problems and has published a report, titled: “Understanding Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations and Their Impact on Communities”. I believe this report is applicable to the Los Alamos Horse stables and should be seriously considered: https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehs/docs/understanding_cafos_nalboh.pdf.

I am strongly in favor of removing Los Alamos Horse Stables from the city limits on the grounds of public nuisance and contamination threats to a public health. Having said this, I am open to compromise. Some suggestions include: moving active animal lots further from the residential area, removing horse manure more regularly to prevent fly breeding (fly gestation periods vary between 7-11 days), creating and enforcing regulations about structures, usage of public space, soil remediation and vegetation restoration. It also is worth noting that, currently, 30 percent of all lots are empty and have no renters.

My appeal to Los Alamos residents: if you are concerned about the situation at the Los Alamos Horse Stables, Please send your voice to prb@lacnm.us (Parks and Recreation Board that manages the LA Horse Stables) and Chris Wilson (manager) christopher.wilson@lacnm.us or to any of the Los Alamos County Councilors you have voted for.

 


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