New penguin exhibit construction leaves small pond in nearby neighborhood

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It promises to be one of the most popular exhibits at the BioPark Zoo. But construction for the Penguin Chill exhibit has some of the zoo’s neighbors concerned and confused.

Twelfth Street just south of the zoo looks more like a river right now, but officials say the massive water flow is necessary for construction of the new penguin exhibit.

One-thousand gallons of water are flowing every hour from the pipes, turning the street into a small pond.

“There’s a water table and with the water table, it’s high and we’re putting a structure below the level that the water sits,” said JT Allen, ABQ BioPark Chief Executive.

He says crews are pumping water out of the ground to make room for the penguins’ new home.

“I thought it was going to be maybe a couple of days, maybe a week at the most,” said Freddie Esquibel, who lives nearby.

Some neighbors say they feel like they were left in the dark when it comes to this part of the project.

“They just said that they were going to have water running there but I didn’t even know why,” said Adelma Esquibel.

The water has been flowing 24-hours a day for more than a month.

“The big concern that I have is the gravel and stuff all the blacktop it seems to be coming off the road,” Esquibel said.

“I have talked with several people that think that this water is going to be wasted or going down the drain and maybe going to the sewer treatment plant, but that’s not what is actually happening,” JT Allen said.

Allen explained that the ground water is just making a short journey to a nearby irrigation canal and going back into the ground.

“It’s going to complete the cycle,” he said.

Allen also said that when the penguin structure is complete, crews will turn off the pumps and water will surround the area again.

Then, crews will turn their attention to the soggy neighborhood.

“I can assure you that any damage caused in this area by our dewater process, we will repair,” Allen said.

Allen added that he apologizes for any miscommunication on the zoo’s behalf.

The zoo expects this water flow to continue for several more weeks, with the $12 million Penguin Chill exhibit expected to open next spring.

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