By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer
New Mexico Environment Department representatives have said they’ve found groundwater pollution at a local dairy, but the owner said he has decreased existing contamination since taking over the property.
NMED environmental scientist Bart Faris, reading from the abatement plan the dairy has turned in to address the situation, said one groundwater monitoring well had 20 milligrams a liter of nitrate, while another had 19.7 milligrams per liter.
There are six monitoring wells on the dairy, and the state has a limit of 10 milligrams per liter of nitrate in groundwater.
Nitrate can cause blue baby syndrome, which can be fatal, by replacing oxygen in the blood of infants, Faris said. Dairy wastewater, among other things, contains the substance.
Dairy owner Gary Bonestroo said a feedlot was on his property decades ago and contaminated the groundwater.
“The nitrates have been high since the first day I started dairying here,” he said.
Bonestroo began running the dairy in 1992.
He said he’s been implementing a cleanup plan for 20 years and has lowered the concentration of nitrates left by the feedlot in the groundwater.
Bonestroo said he thought in another year or two, he would have the contamination removed.
Faris said Bonestroo Dairy has submitted a stage 1 abatement plan, which proposes to continue monitoring pollution and to submit a site investigation work plan in a minimum of 285 days from approval of the abatement plan.
The department must now either approve the plan, or require the dairy to change or replace it.
“So it’s in our court,” Faris said.
Faris expects a decision by or before mid-December.
Bonestroo was notified of the problem in July and submitted the abatement plan in September.
The proceedings are going normally, Faris said.
Once the abatement plan is approved, the dairy must follow it to determine the extent of the contamination.
Faris said he is particularly interested in learning whether domestic wells have been contaminated.
After the assessment stage is completed, the dairy must submit a plan to remove the pollution, according to a department news release.
The news release said the department will seek public comment once the cleanup plan is submitted.