Good news for proponents of moving Agua Fria Elementary School to a new site: The Agua Fria Village "landfill" referenced as a possible obstacle at a recent community meeting is not a landfill at all, according to Santa Fe County, but an informal trash dump that is due for a cleanup anyway.---

Agua Fria Elementary School parents and Agua Fria Traditional Village residents learned of the purported landfill problem at a Nov. 29 meeting at Nancy Rodriguez Community Center in Agua Fria, near the proposed new site for the school. The proposal to rebuild there came after original plans to work with the school's current site ran into numerous problems.

At the time of the meeting, there were many questions, but not a lot of answers, about the new site's condition because of what was being called a landfill located nearby. But county project and facilities division director Mark Hogan tells SFR that there is no landfill at the site—only an old trash dump dating from the 1940s through the 1960s.

While a landfill is a large trench that is created, filled and compacted with the use of large equipment, the trash dump, estimated at 3-6 acres in size at this time, was an informal dumping ground, Hogan says. He believes that some of the confusion about the dump stems from an actual landfill on the other side of State Road 599, which was a predecessor to the current Caja del Rio landfill nearby.

The dump is not just next to, but on the actual property where the school would be constructed—at the very least, parking would be sited where the dump is now, Hogan says. 

"If it was a landfill, we would say it’s not a good site for an elementary school," Hogan says.

Right now, the county estimates the depth of the dump at between 5 and 6 feet. During preliminary exploration, they've found old box springs, stoves, carburetors and livestock bones. Given the vintage of the dump, might there be a treasure or two mixed in?

"If you’re into 40s and 60s memorabilia," Hogan says.

The land in question used to be owned by the federal Bureau of Land Management, but is now the county's. Santa Fe Public Schools could buy adjacent land owned by the BLM to make the school site larger, Hogan says.

The county is currently waiting on more information about the dump's size and the cost of digging out the trash and hauling it to Caja del Rio. It's also ordering soil tests and environmental studies. Even if the school doesn't build on that site, the county would like to clean up the area as part of its river restoration efforts, Hogan says.

"I don’t think anybody supports the idea of building on top of a landfill, so if it’s economical to scoop this out and transport it to the Caja del Rio we’d be cleaning up the site," Hogan says.

The county is hoping to have more information for SFPS by January to avoid further delays in the district's increasingly epic journey to a new Agua Fria school. Based on what he knows about the new site so far, Hogan likes it for the school rebuild.

"I think Agua Fria can really benefit from it, as well as the schools," Hogan says.