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By November 22, 2013Uncategorized

By Rosanne Boyett, The Cibola Beacon
Editor’s Note: The following is second of a two-part series. Part I published in the Tuesday, Nov. 19, edition.
(Cibola County) – “There is no life without water,” emphasized Steve Juanico, Pueblo of Acoma water department director.
“Water has no boundaries. There are two kinds – groundwater and surface water,” he said at the Conservation Voters of New Mexico’s Water Resources Community Forum that was held at the NMSU-Grant on Nov. 13. The organization held a similar event in Gallup in September.
Several community members expressed concerns at the Grants’ meeting about the uranium-mining legacy that continues to negatively affect residents and the natural environment, especially water resources.
“A couple of new mines have been proposed in this watershed,” said Dr. Sharon Walsh, NMSU-Grants natural sciences program manager.
Roca Honda, a new mine proposed for the Mount Taylor Ranger District, is anticipated to operate for 18 years. Each year it will use the same volume of water as the City of Santa Fe, according to Walsh. “That’s a huge amount of water that will be pumped out this aquifer,” she said.
The NMSU professor expressed amazement about commercial activities that have leached contaminants into this aquifer, which both Milan and Grants use for their municipal water supplies.
“There are two EPA Superfund Sites right on our doorsteps: Homestake Mine near Milan and the toxic plume located near First Street in Grants,” she emphasized.
Both of these Sites pose threats to the groundwater supply said Walsh.
The First Street remediation project is the result of a dry cleaning business that allowed extremely toxic chemicals to leak into the groundwater. Walsh stressed the danger to area residents and said, “It takes a millennium (1,000 years) to clean an aquifer once it becomes contaminated.”
Dr. Antonio Lara, NMSU-Las Cruces chemistry and biochemistry department, offered a possible alternative for supplying safe drinking water to individual households.
He told the audience that making safe drinking water available in every home is the long-range goal.
Lara enthusiastically described research that he and his doctoral students have completed that offers a possible method for removing uranium contaminants from household water. The project relies on the use of ionized pellets, which remove the heavy metals and other contaminants.
He demonstrated the process and explained how the system could be installed in any household.
“What about the contaminated pellets? How will they be disposed of?” asked several audience members. The answer is to bury the material in a designated toxic waste repository, according to Lara.
“There is no such repository,” responded Molly Brook, CVNM, who served as moderator.
Talia Boyd, CVNM community organizer, agreed, “That’s always been problem with uranium. It’s not a good source for producing electricity because of all the hazards involved in mining the ore, generating the power, and the lack of a safe way to dispose of the contaminated waste.”
Approximately 25 community members nodded in agreement.
“Nowadays we take our water supply very much for granted. We turn on the tap and there it is – an abundance of hot and cold water,” according to officials from the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer who provided the “New Mexico Gray Water Guide” as part of the free materials offered at the Nov. 13 event.
“In recent years, with growing populations and limited amounts of fresh water the efficient use of this resource has assumed greater importance,” noted the publication.
Several elected officials attended the Grants’ meeting including state Senator Clemente Sanchez and Cibola County Commissioner Anthony “Tony” Gallegos.
“There is a State Water Conservation Plan,” noted Juanico, “but it has never been implemented.”
“We all deserve clean water and so do future generations,” emphasized Boyd.
Homestake Mine Upcoming Meetings
• On Tuesday, Dec. 10, the Environmental Protection Agency Region 6 is hosting an Open House for the Homestake remediation project. The event will be held at the Cibola County Complex, 515 W. High St., Grants, from 5 – 8 p.m.
Call 1-214-665-8476 or email: for more information.
• On Wednesday, Dec. 11, the New Mexico Environment Department is holding a Public Hearing on the Homestake Mining Discharge Permit renewal and modification application. The Hearing will be held at the Cibola County Complex, 515 W. High St., Grants, from 7 – 9 p.m.
Call 1-505-476-3777 or email: for more information.