South Valley woman fighting for better air quality

Posted at: 10/31/2012 6:31 PM
Updated at: 10/31/2012 7:15 PM
By: Eddie Garcia, KOB Eyewitness News

A South Valley woman is working to change the air quality in her neighborhood after a lifetime of breathing what she calls toxic fumes from industries nearby.

Esther Abeyta said just because it's always been that way, it doesn't make it right.

Abeyta is living in the same house her grandmother lived in and doesn't mind sharing the original purchase price.

She said back then, it was $80 and a chicken.

All that time, she said nearby industries have been a part of life for people in the San Jose neighborhood.

"We get impacted by different odors in our neighborhood," said Abeyta.

Abeyta says those industrial odors have always bothered her and recently, she obtained a health impact assessment for the area.

"Compared to the whole city of Albuquerque, our community had high illnesses of respiratory, cardio, diabetes and cancer and our death rates were higher," she said.

So, she linked up with an organization called The Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP), which is a network of residents monitoring their own air quality.

The organization gives people like Abeyta these air sample devices.

Abeyta said she drives to where the industrial odor is strongest and records the location, time, temperature and wind.

She stores the air sample in a sealed bag: "I ship it overnight to the lab in California," she said.

SWOP has three resident run programs; one in the Four Corners area, one near Las Cruces and one in the South alley.

But how reliable are these air samples?

"The EPA has said, 'You know what? We found that this method is scientifically sound and that it will stand up if the data is questioned,'" said SWOP spokesman, Juan Reynosa.

"I feel like, who is my brother's keeper? Am I my brother's keeper for the people in this community? How could I not help my community when I saw the data," said Abeyta.

Abeyta said as long as there are constant industrial odors in her neighborhood she won't rest.

"You have to have the proof and by us having the scientific data we can approach our elected officials and ask them to help us," said Abeyta.

SWOP said it's had success in the metro before. They said they were heavily involved in getting Intel to raise the level of it's smokestacks about 4 years ago.