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Update: A second accuser emerges with misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavenaugh. Also on the Monday rundown: We take you to a state where more than 60,000 kids are chronically absent from school; and we'll let you know why the rural digital divide can be a two-fold problem.

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4,500 NM Swimming Pools Full of Toxic Waste

PHOTO: A new report finds fracking operations in New Mexico produced three billion gallons of toxic wastewater from fracking in 2012. Photo: Fracking site. Courtesy: Samantha Malone and FracTracker.
PHOTO: A new report finds fracking operations in New Mexico produced three billion gallons of toxic wastewater from fracking in 2012. Photo: Fracking site. Courtesy: Samantha Malone and FracTracker.
October 4, 2013

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A new report is the first of its kind to measure the footprint of fracking in New Mexico. Released by the Environment America Research and Policy Center, it reports fracking wells nationwide produced an estimated 280 billion gallons of wastewater last year.

Sanders Moore, director, Environment New Mexico/Environment New Mexico Research and Policy Center, pointed out that in New Mexico alone there were 3 billion gallons of toxic wastewater generated in 2012, enough to fill 4500 Olympic-size swimming pools with fracking waste. But that's only part of the picture.

"Over 9800 tons of air pollution was produced in one year," she said. "Since 2005, 1.7 million tons of global-warming pollution has been produced here in New Mexico, and that is the equivalent of pollution produced from more than 350,000 vehicles."

Moore said one of the obstacles to clean air in the Land of Enchantment is the watering-down of the very effective pit rule that called for lining waste pits to prevent leaching of toxic chemicals into the groundwater. Members of the oil and gas industry have opposed the liners, complaining that the cost to comply is at least $100,000 per well. Moore said she believes reinstating the full pit rule would protect air and water in New Mexico.

Vanessa Pesec, president of NEOGAP, the Network for Oil & Gas Accountability and Protection, isn't shocked by the findings, and said they only scratch the surface of the health threats of fracking. She said a moratorium is needed until safer ways to drill can be found.

"We need to find a safe way to dispose of the huge amount of waste that is being dumped into our state, or we need to clean it up, and we need to do that before drilling continues," Pesec declared.

Sanders Moore said fracking has strong ties to air pollutants that affect public health. Nitrogen oxide, silver oxide and particulate matter, as well as volatile organic compounds, are linked to health issues ranging from triggering asthma attacks to cancer. She talked about what is being done to respond to fracking practices.

"Environment New Mexico, along with concerned citizens and partners across the country, submitted more than one million comments urging President Obama to protect places like Chaco Canyon National Park and Otero Mesa from the threats of fracking," Moore reported.

At this point she believes people can increase regulation of fracking by getting their representatives to support H.R. 2825, nicknamed the "Cleaner Act." That bill, by Democratic Congressman Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania, calls for regulation of wastes associated with production of crude oil, natural gas or geothermal energy. No New Mexicans are currently listed as co-sponsors.

The report is at bit.ly/GBvOWD. H. R. 2825 can be viewed at 1.usa.gov/GzZp2o.

Renee Blake, Public News Service - NM