Commission Agrees to Hear Dairy Industry’s Petition to Weaken Groundwater Protections
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 10, 2013
COMMISSION AGREES TO HEAR DAIRY INDUSTRY’S PETITION TO WEAKEN
SANTA FE, NM—Today, The New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) voted to set a March 2014 meeting to hear the dairy industry’s petition to substantially weaken groundwater discharge rules. The WQCC endorsed the New Mexico Environment Department conducting a stakeholder advisory process on the changes to the rules prior to the March hearing. The New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) with support and assistance from Socially Responsible Agricultural Project (SRAP) represents clients, the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club and Amigos Bravos, who are opposed to the changes.
“Our clients are cautiously optimistic about that the Environment Department’s decision to advocate for conducting a stakeholder advisory process,” says Jon Block, NMELC Staff Attorney. “Now it’s at least possible to work toward changes to the regulations so that our scarce and precious water resources will be protected from pollution by these mega-dairies.”
The dairy industry is proposing changes to the current rule that include:
• Cut backs on routine water testing, disallowing early detection, prevention of pollution and implementation of cost-saving clean-up actions• Cut backs on monitoring wells placed to detect pollution at dairy facilities before public-use waters are threatened• Eliminating the synthetic plastic liner requirement when there is evidence of leeching of large quantities of liquid animal waste into the land and groundwater• Make discretionary the Environment Department’s continued groundwater monitoring and potential site clean-up by dairy operators once their facilities have ceased operation
“The fact we need to keep front and center is that in New Mexico ground water is drinking water,” said SRAP executive director, Danielle Diamond. “A full 90 percent of New Mexico residents drink water from ground sources, which can easily be contaminated with dairy manure. Governor Martinez and the Water Quality Control Commission should be working to protect the health of our water sources, not rolling back hard-fought safeguards that could put families and the public health at risk.”
• In 2009, the New Mexico Legislature mandated the WQCC to specify water discharge regulations for the dairy and copper mining industries that would prevent water pollution and protect water quality. The WQCC adopted stringent groundwater protective rules for the dairy industry in December 2010.
• Dairy Industry Group for a Clean Environment (DIGCE) filed an appeal of the new regulation with the New Mexico Court of Appeals in January 2011.
• DIGCE entered into negotiations with the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) in order to amend the adopted 2010 dairy regulations. NMELC and community groups where involved in that months long process. In September 2011, and amended rule was adopted by the WQCC and in affect by the end of 2011.
• Still unsatisfied with the new regulations, DIGCE filed a petition with the WQCC to amend the rules in September 2012. A hearing was scheduled for that December, but that hearing was postponed.
• In January 2013, the members of the WQCC changed and the new appointments were much more industry friendly.
• In August 2013, DIGCE made a second petition to the new WQCC with a proposal to gut the dairy discharge regulations.
The mission of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center is to protect New Mexico’s natural environment and achieve environmental justice for New Mexico’s communities through legal representation, policy advocacy and public education. The New Mexico Environmental Law Center’s attorneys have handled over 100 critical cases in low-income and minority communities fighting pollution and environmental degradation. The NMELC charges few, if any, fees to its clients, most of who are from Hispanic and Native American communities. The NMELC celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Membership and gifts help New Mexico communities protect their natural environment and their health from toxic pollution, the degrading effects of growth and liabilities created by irresponsible mining. www.nmelc.org