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UPDATE: Barlow speaks on nitrate contamination of water in New Mexico

Earlier this week Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow spoke to the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission on the nitrate contamination of groundwater.

Various reports explain that, “A byproduct of nitrogen-based farm fertilizer, animal manure, wastewater treatment plants and leaky septic tanks, nitrates leach into the ground.”

“Nitrates have been linked to ‘blue baby syndrome’, which cuts off an infant’s oxygen supply. Some studies have found connections to certain cancers in lab animals.”
“By 2004, the New Mexico Environment Department determined that 220 nitrate contamination sites had adversely impacted 710 private and 82 public supply wells in the state, although 90 percent of New Mexico’s population depends on groundwater for its drinking water.”

“A nationwide survey in the late 1980s indicated that nitrate contamination had probably impacted more public and domestic supply wells than any other contaminant.”

“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that as many as 52 percent of community water wells and 57 percent of domestic water wells in the United States are contaminated by nitrates. And 15 percent of contaminated wells in agricultural and urban areas have been found to exceed levels considered safe, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.”

Nitrate is the most common chemical contaminant in the world’s groundwater aquifers. In fact, mean nitrate levels have risen by an estimated 36 percent in global waterways since 1990 with the most dramatic increases seen in the Eastern Mediterranean and Africa, where nitrate contamination has more than doubled. According to various surveys in India and Africa, 20-50 percent of wells contain nitrate1 levels greater than 50 mg/1 and in some cases as high as several hundred milligrams per liter.

For further reading, go to http://www.circleofblue.org/waternews/2010/world/nitrate-contamination-spreading-in-california-communities-water/, http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_15120054, and http://www.pacinst.org/reports/water_quality/water_quality_facts_and_stats.pdf.

The website for the New Mexico Department of the Environment’s Water Quality Control Commission is http://www.nmenv.state.nm.us/wqcc/index.html.