Martinez Administration Wants to Weaken Water Quality Rules
Amigos Bravos, GRIP, & NMELC challenge dirty water proposal
The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) has proposed amendments to the state’s water quality regulations that will weaken protections for our surface and groundwater under the New Mexico Water Quality Act.
NMED’s petition goes before the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission November 14 – 17, 2017. An opportunity for public comment will be available each day at noon and 4:30pm at the State Capitol Bldg. (490 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM), Room 317
Amigos Bravos and Gila Resources Information Project (GRIP), represented by the NM Environmental Law Center, are challenging NMED’s proposal that weakens protections for surface and groundwater quality and limits public participation mandates under the Water Quality Act. The following is a summary of the proposed changes that we are opposing:
• Allowance of lifetime variances from water quality regulations that would allow industry to pollute for the life of a facility rather than provide an incentive to reduce contamination;
• NMED’s refusal to increase current fees and to impose a fee for discharge permit amendments;
• NMED’s proposed amendment regarding technical infeasibility requirements: technical infeasibility should be demonstrated by a statistically valid extrapolation of the decrease of any water contaminant over the remainder of a twenty year period with parametric statistics. Therefore, at a minimum, ten data points should be provided to allow for substantially more sophisticated conclusions than could be provided with non-parametric statistics (or only eight data points);
• NMED’s proposed removal of the 120-day filing requirement for a Stage 2 Abatement Plan proposal after approval by the Secretary of a final site investigation report prepared pursuant to Stage 1 of the Abatement Plan; removing the 120-day filing requirement would allow industry to circumvent the requirement to obtain a variance.
Not all of the proposed changes weaken water quality standards. We support the following proposed changes to the regulations that strengthen protections for New Mexico’s surface and groundwater quality:
• The addition of several new toxic pollutants to the current regulatory definition for “toxic pollutant”;
• Updating and strengthening standards for the following toxic pollutants: arsenic, cadmium, lead, radium-226 & radium-228, PCBs, PCE, TCE, methylene chloride, EDB, benzo-a-pyrene, 1,1,2-trichloroethane;
• Maintaining protective standards for the following toxic pollutants: chromium, fluoride, total mercury, nitrate, total xylenes and PAHs;
• Require petitioners for variances to “state in detail how any water pollution above standards will be abated” and to “state the period of time for which the variance is desired, including all reasons, data, reports and any other information demonstrating that such time period is justifiable and reasonable”;
• Removing the ability of the Secretary of the Environment Department to make technical infeasibility determinations and requiring that such determinations are made by the Commission in a public meeting.
NMED website on Proposed Revisions to the Ground and Surface Water Protection Regulations (20.6.2 NMAC) - https://www.env.nm.gov/gwb/Regulation-Revisions.htm
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