CCNS Urges State Legislature to Protect the Española Aquifer from LANL Pollutants

Did you know that in 2008 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designated the 3,000 square mile Española Basin System as a Sole Source Drinking Water Aquifer?   One ongoing concern is that Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) sits on its western edge, near the Valles Caldera.  And a recent dispute between the New Mexico Environment Department and the Department of Energy about the LANL hexavalent chromium plume, which is being pushed deeper into the regional drinking water aquifer, highlights the need for state agencies to have the resources to protect it.  See Powerpoint presentations titled “DOE-Los Alamos Field Office (1)” and “NMED Hex Chrome Plume” under Item 1.   Hexavalent chromium is a known human carcinogen.

On Monday, August 21st CCNS requested that a New Mexico Legislative Committee provide funding to key state agencies to protect this aquifer from LANL pollutants, which are migrating through the aquifer to the Rio Grande and beyond.  The request to the New Mexico Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Committee was for line items for the budgets of the Office of the State Engineer and New Mexico Environment Department.  See CCNS presentation “Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety” under Item 1.

An important history:  In 2006, La Cienega Valley Citizens for Environmental Safeguards and geo-hydrologist Zane Spiegel submitted a petition to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to designate the area as a sole source aquifer.   They argued that the aquifer supplies at least 50 percent of the drinking water for its service area and there are no reasonably available alternative drinking water sources should the aquifer become contaminated.  The aquifer encompasses the area between the Jemez and Sangre de Cristo Mountains, from Tres Piedras to the north almost to Galisteo to the south.

Then, in 2008, after EPA determined that 85% of the drinking water in the area covered by the petition comes from wells in the aquifer, EPA approved the application and designated the aquifer as a sole source drinking water aquifer.

Nevertheless, LANL has been investigating the hexavalent chromium contamination for nearly 20 years. and

More recently, NMED became concerned that the hexavalent chromium was being pushed further and further into the regional drinking water and ordered that the injection process be stopped.  See NMED Hex Chrome Plume Powerpoint under “Item 1” at  

The threat posed to the Española Basin Sole Source Aquifer by the hexavalent chromium contamination encouraged CCNS to ask for legislative oversight by providing funding to the Office of State Engineer and New Mexico Environment Department.

It is important to note that three of the Los Alamos County drinking water wells are located close to the known perimeter of the hexavalent chromium plume.

A full recording of the August 21, 2023 meeting of the Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Committee meeting is available here:   The presentation by Joni Arends, Executive Director of CCNS begins at 10:06 AM.

  1. Friday, August 25th from noon to 1 pm MT – Join the weekly peaceful protest for nuclear disarmament on the corners of Alameda and Guadalupe in downtown Santa Fe with Veterans for Peace, CCNS, Nuclear Watch NM, Loretto Community, Pax Christi, Nonviolent Santa Fe, and others.


Come talk with us about the Back from the Brink campaign.  Pick up materials to support your work to prevent nuclear war.   


  1. Saturday, August 26th60th Anniversary of the March on Washington in Albuquerque’s Faith Temple Church, 1000 Broadway Blvd. SE. Gathering and lineup at 9:30 am.  March at 10 am.  Rally inside the Faith Temple Church from 10:30 am to 12 noon.  It is a free event.


Speakers include:  Elder James Walker, Faith Temple; Dr. Harold Bailey, NAACP ABQ Branch; State Senator Harold Pope, Jr.; State Representative Eleanor Chavez; Dr. Jamal Martin, UNM; Ashley Long, Central NM Labor Council; and Rev. ND Smith, Macedonia Baptist Church.


For more information, contact Charles Powell at 505 271-9274.


  1. Sign the Tewa Women United petition to Protect Vulnerable NM Communities: Halt Radioactive Tritium Release from LANL.  LANL is proposing to vent four flanged tritium waste containers (FTWCs) by September 30, 2023 (the end of the fiscal year).



  1. Trinity: Legacies of Nuclear Testing – A People’s Perspective Art Exhibit at the Branigan Cultural Center, 501 N. Main Street, Las Cruces, NM.  The exhibit will be up until September 23, 2023.

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