Jan 18, 2008

Española Basin Declared Sole Source Drinking Water Aquifer

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced that they have designated the Española Basin as a sole source drinking water aquifer. The designation was determined by the EPA Region 6, which is based in Dallas, Texas. This is the first sole source aquifer designation for New Mexico.

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


Anonymous said...

Why is this in the blog??

Pinky and The Brain said...

Because Los Alamos is now inside the EPA protected Española Basin.

Anonymous said...

Bye Bye Pits......turn out the lights the party is over.

This is the key nail in our coffin.

How many test wells will we be required to punch, now? These are not cheap and quickly accomplished. Where is the money?

Anonymous said...

1/19/08 11:19 AM: "Bye Bye Pits......turn out the lights the party is over."

Thanks for the insight, Greg, or whoever you are. :(

Statements like this are typical anti-nuclear blather. Before you make such a statement, I think you ought to demonstrate that current plutonium work is contaminating the water and that no remedial action will help. Contamination, if any, from 50 year old sources should not affect current plans.

Also, I think you need to present facts that contamination from current work is projected to be harmful, not just that a few atoms have been detected.

I understand that LANL will be forced to provide evidence showing that they comply, but I think they already do provide such evidence. It is not clear to me how the EPA requirements will change or much more testing is needed. How is it that you know the answer already?

Anonymous said...

No matter what shows up in the water you're going to claim it was old contamination. The current mess took decades to accumulate. You project it will be cleaned up when?

I believe "never" is the word you're looking for.

Anonymous said...

I must say this will be a very effective move for the anti-nukes.This may have long lasting effects on LANL, far more than we now realize. I think this may be thr real turning point.

Anonymous said...

Do you guys realize what kind of "legal" implications this could have for LANL? This is being used by the Santa Fe Groups as a major road-block to any kind of work at LANL. This one has the maskings of very sophisticated, behind the scene manipulation.

Anonymous said...

It's bad enough having the NM Environmental department and DOE breathing down LANL's back for every little thing. Now we're going to have the EPA regulatory goons helping to stop any work getting done at the lab. It's hopeless.

Anonymous said...

We're in touble. They are like cattle - they shit in the water

Anonymous said...

"Thanks for the insight, Greg, or whoever you are. :( "

I am not Doug, and I was involved in building the last Nuclear Power Plant in this country. I am pro-nuke energy : )

I know what happens, after 26 yrs in this business......if they can't regs us out of business...the demands for testing, wells etc. will be too expensive. Pretty easy to see through this one. NMED, EPA can/ and do ask for "whatever they want at the moment", and they don't care how LANL gets the money..."just do it".

Now, enter SF groups.....the goose is cooked. They hate LANL and will see this as a golden opportunity to legally get involved as a stakeholder. Seen it before......

Anonymous said...

Keeping LANL in business is not the same as licensing a new nuclear power plant or starting up Yucca Mountain, to name another example. We already have the facilities here. We already provide monitoring that satisfies current regulations. If we start a new facility like the CMR replacement that has improved controls over an existing facility, and if we shut down and contain the existing facility, this can be seen as an environmental improvement.

I agree that it is disconcerting to have yet another watch dog, but it remains to be seen that the EPA regulations will be more onerous. The EPA would surely examine state requirements and our current inspection and remediation programs and fold them into their plan. Even if EPA adds some new requirements, this does not imply that we are in danger of being shut down. One thing we have going for us in that regard is that the EPA are less likely to be the puppets of local antinuclear hacks.

Anonymous said...

Does this mean I can no longer piss into the Espanola Aquifer when I'm out on a hike?

Anonymous said...

Yes, you can't piss in the river. And the artists in SF can't wash their paintbrushes either. Can't have any heavy metals getting into the aquifer....

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see what happens to the buried TRU wastes in several MDAs, which are currently slated to be stabilized in-place. These buried TRU wastes include mixed wastes and the MDAs, although they pre-date WIPP requirements, can never meet the performance requirements of a WIPP-like repository.

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