Intel and Corrales History

 

Since 1982, when Intel began operations in a small, modern-looking building on the mesa overlooking the Rio Grande between Corrales and Rio Rancho until 1992, few residents of either community paid much attention. The Intel name was known, of course, so there was some pride in the fact that the advanced, high-tech firm had located here. In those early days, the only vague concern was for potential contamination of domestic wells that served each home in the still largely agricultural Corrales Valley below Intel. The microchip manufacturer was, after all, responsible for at least one "Super Fund" clean-up site in Silicon Valley.

In the late 1980s, Intel began to expand its Rio Rancho operations using industrial revenue bonds sponsored by county government.  In 1993 residents began to wonder if there was a connection between their illnesses and disorders and possible air pollution from Intel. A small ad in the local newspaper in the summer of 1993 urged anyone who was tired of exposure to Intel's fumes to come to a Village Council meeting. The resulting turnout was startling; names and phone numbers were exchanged and Corrales Residents for Clean Air was formed. Two months later, its scope and name were expanded to Corrales Residents for Clean Air and Water (CRCAW).

In August 1993, the following mission statement was adopted: "Our mission is to educate the community on 'Right to Know' issues, to encourage Intel to be a good corporate neighbor by releasing information to the public and by adopting first-class, state-of-the-art emissions controls in the short run and reduction and/or substitution of toxic chemicals in the long run."

Over the next decade, CRCAW has: 

  1. Worked to inform residents of Corrales and Rio Rancho about Intel's Air pollution which includes hundreds of tons of federal-listed Hazardous Air Pollutants and state-listed Toxic Air Pollutants.
  2. Negotiated a "Good Neighbor" agreement with Intel requiring installation and operation of incinerators to reduce pollutants (the major provisions of which were incorporated into the N.M. Environment Department's (NMED) regulatory process but later nullified by Intel). 
  3. Initiated a county emergency evacuation plan for Intel hazardous-material releases. 
  4. Worked for improvements to the NMED air-quality programs. 
  5. Testified at numerous NMED hearings on Intel's air pollution permit modifications. 
  6. Protested massive allocations of scarce water resources to Intel could jeopardized Corrales homeowners' wells. 
  7. Conducted a health survey to collect data about the kinds and degree of medical problems associated with exposure to Intel emissions. 
  8. Arranged for bio-medical analysis for victims of illnesses thought to be linked to Intel fumes. 
  9. Advised Village government on water and air concerns. 
  10. Collected testimonial letters from dozens of Corrales residents who explained their medical problems and why they believed those problems are linked to Intel's emissions. 
  11. Initiated a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-funded Corrales Air Toxics Study. 
  12. Purchased a community-owned Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectrometer to continuously monitor and record air pollution from the Intel facilities.

With its Albuquerque-based partner, Southwest Organizing Project, the two grass roots organizations are thought to operate the only community-purchased FTIR device in the United States at this time. The spectrometer has measured dozens of toxic chemicals in Corrales air; including phosgene, phosphine, hydrogen fluoride, hydrogen cyanide, carbon tetrachloride, hexafluoroethane and benzene, to name just a few.

Since Intel's neighboring residents' illnesses and symptoms came to public attention in the early 1990s, Intel officials have consistently denied their operations could be the cause.  Intel has treated residents' health complaints as an "odor problem;" it installed incinerators in the mid-1990s to burn off volatile organic compounds as an "odor abatement" measure. 

After more than a decade of residents' health problems, including but not limited:

  • Two fatal pulmonary fibrosis cases.

  • Full-body rashes.

  • Onset-asthma.

  • Endocrine and reproductive disorders.

  • Loss of consciousness due to industrial fumes.

  • FTIR monitors confirm release of multiple toxic chemicals by Intel
  • Two Intel, whistle blowers, confirmation/validating Intel's knowledge of releasing toxic chemicals.

  • One NMED regulator, whistle blower, confirmation/validating of Intel's sham air pollution permits.

Intel continues to regard these conditions as a public relations problem.


 

This is how the toxic chemicals released by Intel's semiconductor fabrication plant, which will eventually end up in Corrales village:

The prevailing wind from Intel blows toward Corrales across Intel's large buildings.  When these winds reach the edge of the building, the sharp drop-off creates a partial vacuum in the cavity just past the building.  This lower pressure region, caused by building downwash (called Bernoulli effect in physics) draws the air and any toxic gases it contains down toward ground level.

 
This actually happens twice because the Intel plant is on a bluff above the Corrales valley.  And when the prevailing wind passes over the edge of the escarpment, the lower elevation of Corrales draws the air down toward ground level again.

Once the polluted air is down in the lower elevation of Corrales, it is shielded from the wind and is relatively stagnant.  The fact that Intel's most toxic emissions are generally much higher density than air causes them to remain near ground level longer before they eventually dissipate.

 
Phosgene, which caused 80% of the poison gas fatalities in World War I is not only extremely toxic, its high density (3.5 times that of air) causes it to remain near ground level where it will cause the maximum number of fatalities.  Yet, Intel's current permit allows them to release 5.9 tons of this chemical warfare agent each year.