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Environment Department adds new clean water violations to database

Steve Johnson via Flickr

The New Mexico Environment Department’s database for alleged violations logged about 200 entries related to clean water last month. About 40% of the notices went to one organization, and a small water association was referred to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over continued violations.

New Mexico Environment Department Drinking Water Bureau Chief Joe Martinez said the state usually averages about 150 notices per month and that this month, many of them were for failing to conduct required sampling.

He said the Loma Escondida Water Association, which received 15 this month, has a history of violations with the department.

"That's been a difficult water system for us to deal with. So much so, that we've actually referred them over to EPA to see if their enforcement could work with them," Martinez said.

The National Solar Observatory in southern New Mexico is a nationally funded research center and received the most notices. It’s alleged to have missed sampling that it’s required to regularly conduct, and received a notice for each individual contaminant it tests for.

Neither of the organizations returned calls and emails from KUNM. Martinez said that the next step is for the department to try to work with recipients of the notices and issue administrative orders. If that doesn’t work, then it moves on to issuing penalties.

But he said that the department’s limited staff and capacity presents a challenge in carrying that out.

"There's a lot more need out there than maybe we have resources for internally," he said.

The Environment Department launched the public Enforcement Watch database earlier this year and updates it regularly online.

This coverage is made possible by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and KUNM listeners.

Megan Myscofski was a reporter with KUNM's Poverty and Public Health Project.
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