Review of New Mexico's Water Quality Standards Begins December 8

November 27, 2009

The New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission will hold a public hearing about the adequacy of the state's water quality standards, beginning on Tuesday, December 8. The hearing will be held at the State Capitol in Santa Fe and could last several weeks. During the first week of the hearing, public comment will be heard after lunch and Wednesday evening.

The federal Clean Water Act requires each state to review the adequacy of their water quality standards at least once every three years. Thus, the title of the hearing is the Triennial Review.

Two years ago, the New Mexico Environment Department, Surface Water Quality Bureau, presented a proposal for changes to the water quality standards and set up a series of meetings around the state to discuss them. During one of the sessions, representatives from Amigos Bravos, the Western Environmental Law Center and CCNS participated. The non-governmental organizations urged the Environment Department to strengthen the monitoring and reporting requirements for radionuclides in the Rio Grande below Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).

Generally, the Atomic Energy Act allows LANL to regulate itself for radionuclides. As a result, the Environment Department proposal would require monitoring and reporting of key radionuclides in the Rio Grande. These include radionuclides associated with nuclear weapons research, development and manufacturing, such as plutonium, americium, cesium and strontium. LANL is opposing the proposed requirements.

Brian Shields, Executive Director of Amigos Bravos, said, "All New Mexicans have the right to know what's in their water and Los Alamos National Laboratory should not be allowed to withhold that information. This issue is especially important for Santa Fe residents who will be using the Rio Grande water for drinking. We encourage people in Santa Fe to come out and provide testimony during the public comment sessions."

Amigos Bravos is a Taos-based environmental group dedicated to stewardship of the Rio Grande.

Amigos Bravos is also addressing other issues through the hearing process. These include the need to address changes in water flow due to climate change and the need to apply heightened aquatic life standards to all waters in order to protect species that rely on ephemeral water sources to survive.

The hearing will be held in Room 309 in the Roundhouse. Beginning Tuesday, December 8 through Friday, December 11, public comment will be heard after lunch. It is suggested for people to arrive around 12:30 p.m. Public comment will also be heard the evening of Wednesday, December 9, beginning at 6:30 pm at the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources office, located at 1220 South St. Francis Drive, Santa Fe.

For more information and to see the filings of the various parties, including LANL, go to the New Mexico Environment Department Surface Water Quality Bureau webpage at

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