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Once water is poisoned, that water is gone for good.

Last week we wrote to you about New Energy Economy's recent filing of appearance in the Wastewater Reuse rulemaking at the Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) to oppose the failure of the draft rule to protect against contamination of New Mexico's water. Today we are writing to highlight the dangers posed by the rule as it is written.

Climate change is projected to reduce our water supply by 25% in the next 50 years, and New Mexico’s deep water aquifers are a precious, finite resource. They cannot be replenished by rainfall.

According to the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources "Brackish water in deep, confined aquifers is, in most cases, not a renewable resource. If we extract this water, eventually the supply will be depleted... That water cannot be replaced in aquifer storage because of permanent collapse in the aquifer pore spaces."

Endangering the water we do have is foolish in the extreme, risking the very survival of our arid state. 

Science does not support the Governor’s plan for desalination of our deep brackish water, or treatment and reuse of produced water. Among numerous hazardous compounds, produced water may contain PFAS, bromide, arsenic, mercury, barium, radioactive isotopes and organic compounds like benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes. Exposure to these toxic and radioactive substances has been correlated with increased risks of cancer, birth defects, and early death, and the evidence keeps coming:

  • Particularly dangerous is the use of treated produced water for agriculture and livestock, where persistent compounds may accumulate. A study using treated produced water on wheat found that “irrigation with even 5% produced water dilution led to decreases in soil health, microbial diversity and crop yields.” 

  • A 2022 study in Environmental Health Perspectives estimated that Pennsylvania children who lived near a fracked oil or gas well had two to three times the odds of developing childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

  • A 2022 study in the Journal of Health Economics found that shale gas wells are associated with increased preterm births and low birth weight: “drilling near an infant’s public water source yields poorer birth outcomes and more fracking-related contaminants in public drinking water.”

  • A 2023 paper in Environmental Pollution found that fracking operations from 2014 to 2021 continued to use dangerous chemicals associated with serious health effects.

  • Workers in produced water treatment plants in Pennsylvania have suffered prolonged illnesses after exposure to the toxic waste.

  • And most importantly, of more than a thousand chemicals found by scientists in produced water samples, only 14% have established toxicity values for risk assessment in the United States. In other words, the toxicity of 86% of the chemicals has never even been studied.

Even the Texas Produced Water Consortium admits “there could be residual constituents in the produced water (even after treatment) whose impacts on an intended use may not fully be known at this stage.” We cannot afford to take these risks with our precious water.

As communities like La Cieneguilla in Santa Fe County have recently experienced, the contamination of wells with PFAS chemicals, just a few of the known components in fracking fluid, can devastate a community, affecting people’s health, leaving residents dependent on water deliveries and bottled water for household use, and destroying property values. Contamination of our limited potable water is a very real and likely outcome of produced water reuse. 

When Governor Lujan Grisham was pushing back against misinformation during COVID she stated “my administration has taken strong steps to protect New Mexicans from precisely the kind of proudly anti-scientific bluster and misjudgment encapsulated in your letter.” About Trump she said: “The president's disregard for science, for evidence-based decision-making, is a danger to New Mexicans and to all Americans."

Yet, now, the Governor's dangerous Strategic Water Supply proposal is mimicking that Trump-like approach to public policy with a taxpayer funded $500 million bailout for the oil and gas industry that relies on unproven technology with NO basis in science or evidence. 

We are asking all New Mexicans to take action and spread the word. Agua es la Vida!


The draft Wastewater Reuse Rule (WQCC 23-84) at the Water Quality Control Commission was proposed to solve the oil and gas industry's enormous waste problem by reusing toxic fracking waste, aka produced water, for demonstration and industrial projects, with the eventual goal of using treated water for reuse in "agriculture, irrigation, potable water supplies, aquifer recharge, industrial processes or environmental restoration.”

We are calling on the WQCC to reject the proposed rule, or to redraft the rule to prohibit the discharge, disposal or reuse of treated or untreated produced water outside the oil field, without exception.

Treatment of produced water for reuse may be scientifically possible at some unknown scale and at some unknown cost, but this rule does not address that. This rule puts the cart before the horse, allowing reuse without specifying or requiring ANY measures of toxicity or radiation at input or output to ensure the safety of the public. 


This March 24th report starts: "There is increasing alarm about West Texas oil fields that continue to produce toxic water leaks." And yet in NM there is a plan to deliberately allow "produced water" reuse across the state! An excerpt:

The problem — perhaps caused by the injection of oil and gas wastewater underground and resulting increases in subsurface pressure — is so prevalent and productive that one leak has spawned a 60-acre body of water, Lake Boehmer. In addition to water, that abandoned wildcat well emits deadly hydrogen sulfide gas. These "zombie wells" are causing other issues too, including sinkholes."
The worst thing about this one is that it's toxic [and] radioactive produced water that is going into the groundwater," said Bill Burch, who was defeated in the Democratic primary for a seat on the RRC on March 5. "That is a horrendous, worst-case scenario, catastrophic-level event to occur in oil and gas in West Texas."
"This is now definitive unquestionable proof that the future of usable groundwater in Texas is at risk due to the salt water disposal issue," he added.


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