The designation is important to protect regional drinking water supplies. To qualify, a sole or principal source of drinking water must supply 50% or more of the drinking water for the area and that, should the aquifer become contaminated, there are no reasonable alternative sources of water for the area. The designated Española Basin encompasses an area of about 3,000 square miles and runs from a little north of Tres Piedras to below where the Santa Fe River flows into the Rio Grande [does it go into the Galisteo basin?]. It includes the cities of Española, Los Alamos and Santa Fe, as well as the Pueblos of Picuris, Ohkay Owingeh, Santa Clara, San Ildefonso, Pojoaque, Nambe, Tesuque and Cochiti.
The La Cienega Valley Citizens for Environmental Safeguards began the petition process in 2001. Zane Spiegel, a geo-hydrologist, who is very familiar with the Española Basin, assisted the non-profit organization. Spiegel began exploring the Basin on horseback in the early 1950s when he was working for the U.S. Geologic Survey. The mission of Citizens for Environmental Safeguards is to conserve imperiled watersheds both in water quantity and quality issues, habitat, native species and their threatened habitat and the cultural resources that affects traditional and historic communities and provide public education about these issues.
As a result of the designation, all projects that require federal funding having the potential to contaminate the designated area will be subject to review by the EPA. The review could result in either a redesign of the project or prevent a commitment of funding. The designation does not impact projects that receive funding from private entities or state and local governments.Assembling the petition requires sufficient technical information to allow EPA to determine whether the aquifer is the sole, or principal, source of drinking water and to establish the boundaries of the aquifer and its recharge area.
Elaine Cimino, director of the Citizens for Environmental Safeguards, said the designation would help protect ground water. It is our hope today that our congressional delegation is able to earmark much needed funds for clean drinking water to the Española Basin Sole Source Aquifer System. We are surprised and delighted that the US EPA recognized and acknowledge the much needed support for clean drinking water standards here in New Mexico."
Activists question how the designation might affect Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), a facility that has reported contamination in both the Los Alamos County and Santa Fe drinking water supplies. The Department of Energy is proposing increased plutonium pit production at LANL, with public hearings scheduled for early March in New Mexico.
For more information about the sole source aquifer designation, please visit environmentalsafeguards.org and click on Water. The petition and the designation materials are available at epa.gov by conducting a search for Española Basin Sole Source Aquifer System.
This has been the CCNS News Update. For more information about this or other nuclear safety issues, please visit our website at nuclearactive.org.
Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety
107 Cienega Street Santa Fe, NM 87501
Tel (505) 986-1973 Fax (505) 986-0997