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Safer Chemical Solutions

A wastewater treatment plant in Albuquerque, NM phased out hazardous chemicals by switching to an ultraviolet light disinfection system


Community organizing to demand safer alternatives has successfully reduced and removed chemical hazards. For years, the Southside Water Reclamation Plant in Albuquerque, New Mexico used toxic chlorine gas to disinfect wastewater, and stored large amounts of the chemical on site. This put 16,000 people living within 5.4 miles of the facility at risk of a chemical disaster, and further burdened a community already surrounded by polluting industry. Mountain View community members, along with Los Jardines Institute, built power by knocking on doors, educating their neighbors, and alerting the EPA that the plant violated the Clean Water Act. In 2010, after the EPA issued an order for the plant to update its dangerous and outdated system, the plant worked to phase out its use of chlorine and sulfur dioxide gases. In 2011 the plant completed its transition to an ultraviolet light disinfection system, which helped reduce water pollution into the local river, cut down on lung-damaging air pollution, and reduced the risk of a chemical disaster for thousands of Albuquerque residents. Because the plant stopped using and storing chlorine gas, it was deregistered from the EPA’s Risk Management Program.

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