Blowing dirt and dust from a subdivision construction site west of the Jubilee at Los Lunas community has prompted a lawsuit against the developer. (Source: New Mexico Environment Department)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

Residents at Jubilee in Los Lunas have a sand problem.

In recent months, they say the fine particles have seeped through windows, piled up in backyards and lodged under roof shingles.

The Los Lunas homeowners are now suing the businesses behind the Sierra Vista development on N.M. 6 west of their community.

The lawsuit, filed in 2nd Judicial District Court in Albuquerque on July 13, alleges that Double M Properties and Sundance Mechanical & Utility Corp. have not done enough to control the construction site’s dirt and dust.

Levi Monagle, an Albuquerque attorney with the Hall Monagle Huffman & Wallace law firm representing the residents, said they hope the litigation will prompt a quick fix.

“It’s pretty stark how large this site is and how barren it is, just completely denuded of any vegetation,” he said. “Every time the wind blows over 9 miles an hour, dust is getting picked up and moved into this community.”

The Sierra Vista development west of Interstate 25 could have as many as 750 homes. About 40 homes have been built.

Some current Sierra Vista residents also joined the lawsuit.

The project team has spent more than $600,000 on dust suppression, said Mike Mechenbier, the farmer, rancher and developer who owns the Sierra Vista companies.

Dirt and dust collects on the inside of a kitchen window in this photo from a Jubilee resident. The homeowners allege in a lawsuit that developers of the neighboring Sierra Vista site have not done enough to control the dust pollution. (Courtesy of Hall Monagle Huffman & Wallace)

Dust control strategies include water trucks, silt fences and replanting.

The site is close to Facebook and Amazon construction areas.

“It’s just been so dry that whether you’re developing or not, you’re going to have dust and dirt,” Mechenbier said. “But once you get winds like we’ve had upwards of 50, 60 mph, there’s not much you can do.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency filed a complaint in May against Double M Properties for Clean Water Act violations.

EPA, which based its review on the state Environment Department inspections, said the company could face a $115,000 fine because it did not originally have a permit to clear all the acreage and discharge pollutants from the site.

“As much as this is a damages issue to our clients at an individual level, this is also an environmental and health issue,” Monagle said.

Double M later amended its permit to cover the entire 200 acres, instead of only 57 acres.

Mechenbier said the permanent solution will be to build more houses on the cleared acreage.

But supply chain issues have delayed building schedules and left much of the site undeveloped.

“We do want to be good neighbors,” Mechenbier said. “I hope we can come to a resolution and get those houses down quickly.”