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Legal battle continues over concrete batch plant in Alto, New Mexico

Last June, the Environment Department's Deputy Secretary of Environment issued an orderto deny an air quality permit for Roper Construction’s concrete batch plant in Alto. But recently, the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board voted to overturn that order. Mark Severance, Chairman of the Alto Coalition for Environmental Preservation, said that the decision by the board is highly questionable.

“The entire deliberation was a complete debacle," he said. "The board members did not understand who the plaintiff was, who had the burden of proof, who was trying to overturn what. So we’re very disappointed in the lack of preparation from the board going into this deliberation given the impact that it would have on so many people.”

Severance said that the operation of a concrete batch plant would be harmful to the ecosystem, as well as the residents who live there, with many contemplating moving if the plant becomes operational.

“There is published medical data based on concrete batch plants in unzoned areas that show that an instance of cancer goes up by on the order of 30% for folks living within a half mile to a mile of a concrete batch plant. What that actual threshold is, the end of that threshold is not clear, it’s not been published. But there certainly is a danger for people living close in,” he said.

Severance said that construction of the concrete batch plant by Roper Construction is already underway despite the fact that they have yet to receive a permit from the Environmental Department, but the coalition intends to appeal the decision by the Environmental Improvement Board.

When KRWG Reached out to the Environmental Department for a response, a spokesperson said that they could not speak for the Environmental Improvement Board. KRWG also reached out to Alto Construction but did not immediately receive a response.

Jonny Coker is a Multimedia Journalist for KRWG Public Media. He has lived in Southern New Mexico for most of his life, growing up in the small Village of Cloudcroft, and earning a degree in Journalism and Media Studies at New Mexico State University.