Polluters Dumping into New Mexico’s Waterways

Media Contacts
Sanders Moore

Environment New Mexico Research & Policy Center

Albuquerque, NM – Industrial facilities dumped excessive pollution into New Mexico’s waterways 48 times over 21 months, according to a new report by Environment New Mexico Research & Policy Center. The facilities rarely faced penalties for this pollution. Environment New Mexico’s Troubled Waters report comes as the Trump administration tries to weaken clean water protections and slash enforcement funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the states.

“All New Mexico waterways should be clean for swimming, drinking water, and wildlife,” said Sanders Moore, director of Environment New Mexico Research & Policy Center. “But industrial polluters are still dumping chemicals that threaten our health and environment,  and no one is holding them accountable.”

In reviewing Clean Water Act compliance data from January 2016 through September 2017, Environment New Mexico Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group found that major industrial facilities are regularly dumping pollution beyond legal limits set to protect human health and the environment, in New Mexico and across the country.    

For example, the report shows that University of California, Los Alamos poured pollutants in excess of its permit limits 3 times into Sandia Canyon in the Rio Grande Basin. and the City of Aztec polluted the Animas River 30 instances beyond the legal limit, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ICIS database. In addition, there were 17 instances of pollution 500 percent beyond permit limits.  

“Amigos Bravos has been fighting to protect New Mexico’s waters for 30 years, including engagement with entities noted in the Troubled Waters report,” stated Joe Zuppan, executive director of Amigos Bravos. “We further note that there are many, many more instances of pollution that exceeds surface water quality standards that don’t however meet the definition of an “exceedence” with respect to discharge permits. Given that water is an increasingly rare and precious resource in New Mexico, we all must work together to protect our watersheds for the health and benefit of our communities and the environment.”

The report also shows that polluters rarely face penalties, and recommends several measures to ensure stronger enforcement of, and protection for, clean water.Unfortunately, decision makers in Washington could soon make the pattern of pollution worse.  

Steve Harris, owner of Far-Flung Adventures, summed it up: “For boaters and anglers, contaminated water is not much better than no water at all.”