Members of the Carlsbad Brine Well Authority heard detailed plans for post Brine Well operations after New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced a general completion of the Brine Well project Wednesday in Carlsbad.
The State of New Mexico noted during Thursday’s Brine Well Authority meeting two of six goals were met during the remediation process of the former I&W Brine Well site located south of Carlsbad.
Remediation design and the filling of a cavity on the northern end of the former Brine Well site were finished.
Depressurization of the cavity, site surface restoration, post remediation monitoring and closing out the project were the remaining goals outlined by the State.
Remediation began almost three years ago at the site located at the intersection of United States Highways 285 and 62/180 at the South Y.
Work was suspended in 2020 due funding worries. Before work stopped crews stabilized the southern portion in 2019 with grout.
Crews later discovered problems with the northern portion of the cavity, said Pete Guerra, deputy project manager for the Wood group, an engineering firm tasked with the project.
He said the roof of the cavity collapsed and some sand shifted sometime in 2020.
Work resumed in 2021 as the State of New Mexico secured money from the City of Carlsbad and Eddy County.
Guerra said crews started work to fill the void in October 2021 and took a break for Christmas and resumed filling operations in January of this year.
“We did another sonar survey and what we found was unlike what happened in 2020, the majority of sand that we added filled the void,” he said.
He said crews infused the void successfully on Feb. 15.
The New Mexico Oil Conservation Division (OCD) recognized the brine well hazard after a brine well near Artesia collapsed in 2008. A second brine well near Loco Hills collapsed months later.
The State of New Mexico estimated a similar collapse in Carlsbad would have caused damages in excess of $1 billion damages.
A major irrigation canal, a rail line, multiple businesses, and residences would have felt impact along with the major highways near the South Y.
New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) District 2 Engineer Francisco Sanchez was a member of the Brine Well Authority and said the remediation was a complex project.
He said NMDOT created a temporary access road connecting U.S. 285 and U.S. 62/180 to help crews working on the project.
“Since the onset of the project, the intent was to return to original configuration and previous traffic pattern. As soon as The New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD) notifies NMDOT the original access road exit is no longer needed, NMDOT will remove the temporary access road and resume original traffic pattern,” he said.
Guerra said the property impacted by the work was returned to business owners and residents.
“Knowing the public is safe, infrastructure is protected, and businesses can go back to normal is great feeling of accomplishment,” Sanchez said.
“NMDOT is very proud to have a role in this project, doing the right thing for the State of New Mexico and residents of Carlsbad and Eddy County.”
EMNRD Cabinet Secretary Sarah Cottrell Propst said the remediation effort was a strong collaborative of government and private business.
“We feel like we have remediated a risk to the surface and the groundwater into the community,” she said.
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