KUNM Reporting Series

Apr 15, 2015

The Rio Grande runs through three states, and all along the way communities use the river’s waters for drinking, crop irrigation, and for Native American religious ceremonies. But with New Mexico’s biggest urban centers and military bases—and the substantial pollution they generate—near to the riverbanks, how safe is the Rio Grande for people and wildlife? In this series, we take an in-depth look at what’s in the water, what’s being done to fight pollution, and what contamination means for human and environmental health.

Power Surge Sends Sewage Into The Rio Grande

Wastewater flowing into the Rio Grande from the Southside Wastewater Reclamation Plant on a day when the plant was functioning properly.
Credit Credit Ed Williams-KUNM

Albuquerque’s wastewater treatment plant spilled nearly 6 million gallons of partially treated sewage into the Rio Grande in February. Public Health New Mexico’s Ed Williams reports there was an equipment failure at one of the plant’s pumping facilities.

Officials with the Southside Wastewater Reclamation Plant say there was a spike in power during last week’s heavy snowstorm. That power spike disabled a pump station. Read more...


Little Room For Error At Albuquerque's Wastewater Plant

Credit Rita Daniels

Businesses, military bases and city utilities have dozens of permits to release pollution into the Rio Grande watershed. Albuquerque’s wastewater treatment plant is one of the biggest sources of discharges into the river.

The plant has had trouble with regulators and neighboring communities in the past, but they’re making some headway. Read more... 


Map of EPA Violators in New Mexico

EPA Violators in NM
Credit Credit Rashad Mahmood-KUNM

This map shows facilities in current violation with the EPA. To find facilities near you, you can filter by zip code, or just zoom in on your neighborhood. Feel free to explore the database yourself by clicking the explore button, or going to http://nm-epa-violators.silk.co/

The map includes facilities with unknown compliance status, but who have had violations in the past. The locations of some entries are approximate. Read more...



Small Tribe, Big River: Isleta Eyes Pollution In The Rio Grande

Credit Ed Williams-KUNM

The Pueblo of Isleta is bordered on one side by Kirtland Air Force Base, on another by the City of Albuquerque—and through the middle of the tribe’s ancestral land runs the Rio Grande. The river is the bedrock of the tribe’s cultural heritage. But Pueblo residents say pollution from their bigger neighbors has contaminated the river they consider to be sacred.

Ask a resident of Isleta Pueblo how the tribe’s relationship with the Rio Grande has changed over the years, and you’re likely to hear something like this:

“I grew up drinking water from the river. That’s not a good idea now, in fact we have warning signs not to be in the river.” Read more...

Timeline of ABQ Clean Water Act Violations


Credit Credit Rita Williams-KUNM

This timeline lists violations of the Clean Water Act in the Albuquerque area. 

Violators include water plants, power stations, stormwater systems, retailers, and more. See the interactive timeline here...