Burque History: Why South Valley Has One (Had Two) Sewage Treatment Plants

Old-timer Burqueans, particularly those in Barelas who had to smell it all the time, recall that the City’s sewage treatment plant used to be on 2nd Street between what is now Bueno Foods on the north, Riverside Trail (aka: Bosque Path) on the west, some industrial businesses to the south, and 2nd St. to the east. Here’s how it was mapped back in 1960:

2nd st sewage treatment 1960
West San Jose School building became part of today’s National Hispanic Cultural Center complex

And here’s a birds’ eye of how it looks today:

2nd st sewage treatment today
Yes, Bueno Foods is next to what used to be the sewage treatment plant. It doesn’t change our fine love for their products, but it also explains why there’s not a sign saying “Home to Former City Sewage Treatment Plant.” Also, the ball fields are at “Barelas Railroad Park” because that sounds much better than “Old Sewage Treatment Park.”

A lingering, like a smell, question is while we know the current treatment plant is located about three miles south of the old one, along the Riverside Trail/Bosque Path south of Rio Bravo Blvd, you may not know that both plants were in operation for years, giving the South Valley (including Barelas/San Jose/etc. in that term) not one but two sewage treatment plants, while the rest of town got off smell scot-free.

And folks wonder why South Valley residents are generally pissed-off about any idea raised by those not living in the South Valley…

You may also not know that this “pile it on the South Valley” motif regarding sewage treatment didn’t happen without discussions of where to put, at the time, a 2nd treatment plant. Yes, serious talk was given to another part of town.

Can you guess the part of town? Without looking down to the rest of the story?

As related in the October 20, 1954 Albuquerque Tribune, “Study Begins of North End Sewage Plant.”

Edith Sewage Plant Discussed
“north of Menaul Blvd. and west of Edith,” a location not too far away from what decades later has become the firestorm known as the proposed “Edith Transfer Station”

The idea of a split, two-plant approach reached enough seriousness and extended long enough that the Albuquerque Journal ran a 5-part series on forming two sewage districts a decade late, in 1964, with one proposed in the North Valley and the other existing one in the South Valley.

2 sewage districts 1964
Proving once again that the best way to kill a project is to have a five-part series about it. Albuquerque Journal, July 8, 1964


As we know, the North Valley sewage treatment plant and sewer district never happened, and the deep South Valley continues to host our one treatment plant. The old plant at 2nd Street hosts softball games and a fenced empty field. The best way to spot the site, if you’re not playing right field at one of the softball games, is to ride Riverside Trail. Breath deeply, and imagine how different September might smell riding in the area if the roasting chiles at Bueno were replaced by, well, something else…

curb smell 2nd st
Nothing like the smell of sewage and hot asphalt. Albuquerque Journal, July 25, 1964


Have a great, sweet-smelling weekend, everybody!





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