Nearly 50,000 Pounds of Toxic Chemicals Dumped into New Mexico’s Waterways

Environment New Mexico Research and Policy Center

Santa Fe, NM–Industrial facilities dumped 49,786 pounds of toxic chemicals into New Mexico’s waterways,” according to a new report released today by Environment New Mexico. Wasting Our Waterways: Industrial Toxic Pollution and the Unfulfilled Promise of the Clean Water Act also found that 226 million pounds of toxic chemicals were discharged into 1,400 waterways across the country.

“New Mexico’s waterways are a polluter’s paradise right now. Polluters dump nearly 50,000 pounds of toxic chemicals into New Mexico’s lakes, rivers and streams every year,” said Maxine Paul, Preservation Associate with Environment New Mexico. “We must turn the tide of toxic pollution by restoring Clean Water Act protections to our waterways.”

Joe Moody, who runs Squash Blossom Farm at the end of the Santa Fe River, said of the farming business; “Weak regulations and enforcement have already done harm. Farming in an arid region is difficult enough without the worry of toxins in our water supply.”

Francois-Marie Patorni of the Santa Fe Watershed Association stated, “To speak the obvious, not one drop of water can be taken for granted. Ever. The Santa Fe Watershed Association supports a living Santa Fe River and a green watershed through various programs. A lot was accomplished here, including the passing of an ordinance last month guaranteeing water in the river each year. But the Santa Fe River is just one river. All stewards of the environment should work together in securing clean water for all rivers in New Mexico. We support a ‘NATO-like strategy’: an attack on ONE river is an attack on ALL our rivers.”

The Environment New Mexico report documents and analyzes the dangerous levels of pollutants discharged to America’s waters by compiling toxic chemical releases reported to the U.S. EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory for 2010, the most recent data available.

Major findings of the report include

• The biggest polluter in the state was the department of defense, releasing over 46,000 pounds of toxics at the Holloman Air Force base near Alamogordo within one year.

• Over 1,000 pounds of toxics were discharged into the Chamas Creek in the Apache National Forest and Morgan Lake, near Farmington

• Industrial facilities discharged approximately 181 pounds of chemicals linked to cancer, and 140 pounds of chemicals linked to developmental and reproductive harm into our waterways.

Environment New Mexico’s report summarizes discharges of cancer-causing chemicals, chemicals that persist in the environment, and chemicals with the potential to cause reproductive problems ranging from birth defects to reduced fertility. Among the toxic chemicals discharged by facilities are arsenic, mercury, and benzene. Exposure to these chemicals is linked to cancer, developmental disorders, and reproductive disorders.

“There are common-sense steps that we can take to turn the tide against toxic pollution of our waters,” added Paul.

In order to curb the toxic pollution threatening 88% of New Mexico’s miles of waterways, Environment New Mexico recommends the following:

1. Pollution Prevention: Industrial facilities should reduce their toxic discharges to waterways by switching from hazardous chemicals to safer alternatives.

2. Protect all waters: The Obama administration should finalize guidelines and conduct a rulemaking to clarify that the Clean Water Act applies to all of our waterways – including the 95,611 miles of streams in New Mexico and New Mexicans’ drinking water for which jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act has been called into question as a result of two polluter-driven Supreme Court decisions in the last decade.

3. Tough permitting and enforcement: EPA and state agencies should issue permits with tough, numeric limits for each type of toxic pollution discharged, ratchet down those limits over time, and enforce those limits with credible penalties, not just warning letters.

“The bottom line is that the land of enchantment’s waterways shouldn’t be a polluter’s paradise, they should just be paradise. We need clean water now, and we are counting on the federal government to act to protect our health and our environment,” concluded Maxine Paul.

Direct me to the report PDF.