The Communications Workers of America Local 7076, which represents state employees, today held a press conference asking for an environmental review of potential contamination problems in several state buildings.

CWA Local 7076 President Donald Alire says that during the past three years his union has heard health complaints from at least 22 employees who work or have worked in the Jerry Apodaca Building, which houses the state's Public Education Department.

The symptoms of the employees who raised concerns, Alire says, are related to "respiratory complications, nervous system and stomach or physiological problems, short-term memory loss, cognitive abilities being impaired, executive functioning or decision making ability deterioration, among others."

One of the employees, Alire says, is required by his doctor to wear a breathing mask when at work in the Apodaca Building.

CWA also dug up a 2010 study by the New Mexico Environmental Department Brownfields Program concluding that several areas close to the Apodaca Building are at high risk of contamination (illustrated in the map above, with red meaning high risk, blue meaning moderate risk and green meaning low risk). That's because historically, the site has been home to businesses like gas stations, dry cleaners and funeral homes that used highly toxic chemicals which may have leaked or spilled into the soil and groundwater.

The 2010 study, which was done on behalf of the City of Santa Fe to measure potential environmental risk near the Santa Fe River, is based on historical data. Alire says CWA wants the General Services Department to "do the correct type of testing for, and monitoring of, potential vapor intrusive contamination"—ie the risk of toxic vapors traveling from the groundwater or soil into the state buildings.

"We are re-releasing this information in a public way not to panic people but to make sure our government leaders are using the tools at their disposal to identify and remediate contamination which is having a debilitating effect on people working in areas that harmful vapor intrusion may exist," he said at the press conference.

Members of the union are planning to attend and make a presentation about the matter at a Sept. 3 Capitol Buildings Planning Commission meeting in the Roundhouse.