Wednesday night, New Mexico’s largest water utility agreed to sell water to the federal government to boost flows in the Rio Grande through the end of the year. Under the one-time lease, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will pay the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority $2 million for 20,000 acre feet of water stored in Abiquiu Reservoir. The water will be used to keep the river flowing from below Cochiti Dam, through Albuquerque and downstream of the Isleta Diversion Dam. During the meeting, John Stomp, chief operating officer of the water authority, assured board members it has that water to spare. “The reason we’re able to do this is we have managed our supplies really well in the past,” Stomp said.
There isn’t enough community interest in the cleanup of the massive Kirtland Air Force Base jet fuel spill to merit the creation of a Restoration Advisory Board. That’s according to a memo sent out by the U.S. Air Force this Monday. Restoration Advisory Boards, or RABs, allow local governments and citizens to become more involved in environmental restoration issues at U.S. Department of Defense facilities. In the memo, Kirtland Commander Col. Eric Froehlich wrote that last year the executive director of Citizen Action, Dave McCoy, delivered a petition with 80 signatures, asking that the federal government create a RAB related to the jet fuel leak and cleanup.
A state department has fined the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Authority more than $144,000 for several violations, the most serious of which is over the exposure of multiple employees to a toxic chemical. In May, New Mexico Occupational Safety and Health Bureau (OSHA) found 44 violations by the Water Authority after six months of investigation. More than a third of the dollar figure for the fines comes from exposing employees to hazardous levels of ozone, a toxic gas that at high levels can cause serious respiratory problems and trigger asthma attacks. Ozone is one of the many chemicals used to purify drinking water at the Water Treatment Plant in Albuquerque. OSHA classifies the ozone violation as “willful-serious,” noting that the Water Authority “was aware that there were no [National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-certified] respirators for ozone” and instead allowed its employees to use air-purifying respirators.