New Mexico Health and Toxics Issues
Issues of Concern
Citizens and state officials in New Mexico have become increasingly concerned with the potential environmental and health effects related to oil and gas industry emissions and chemical releases.
Unlined Drip Pit in New Mexico
Citizens have expressed concern about contamination from oil and gas pits, well sites and gas plants.
* GROUNDWATER CONTAMINATION: Read about groundwater contamination from oil and gas pits in New Mexico.
* SPILLS: At around 10 p.m. on June 7, 2006, a spill of hydraulic fracturing fluid at a Farmington Halliburton facility created a toxic cloud that caused a mass evacuation of 200 residents from a nearby neighborhood. Between 30 and 60 gallons of an "acidizing composition," which is used while hydraulically fracturing some oil and gas wells, spilled while Halliburton employees were mixing the fluid. The city fire chief said that the product may cause skin and respiratory burns, is harmful if swallowed, and will combust at 103 degrees F. One resident said that she was nauseous and vomited clear liquid for several hours after being exposed to the toxic cloud. (Source: Farmington Daily Times. July 7, 2006. "Halliburton spill results in acid cloud.")
* HYDROGEN SULFIDE: Hydrogen sulfide, a deadly gas, is found at many gas sites throughout New Mexico. In the San Juan Basin, alone, there are approximately 375 wells that contain hydrogen sulfide. Download a presentation on Hydrogen Sulfide Occurrences in the San Juan Basin.
A number of New Mexico state agency initiatives reflect an overall growing concern with oil and gas industry wastes and emissions.
* NEW: New Mexico Oil Conservation Commission released its new rules governing oil and gas pits. For more information.
* Recently, the state agencies have begun to tighten regulations governing the disposal of oil and gas wastes at landfills and landfarms.
* Attention is also being paid to health impacts from a decline in air quality, due in part to oil and gas industry emissions. For more information, visit the Four Corners Air Quality Task Force web site.
Chemicals used by the New Mexico oil and gas industry
Increasing attention is being paid to chemical products used by the oil and gas industry. In New Mexico, data show that there are a wide variety of chemical products used throughout the exploration, drilling and production phases oil and gas development. Although it is common to hear from industry and some state agency representatives that drilling and production chemicals and wastes are benign, there is competing industry information indicating that toxic chemicals are used and released throughout the development process.
Organizations like The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, Inc. (TEDX) of Paonia, Colorado have begun to gather data and assess the potential health effects associated with chemicals used in oil and gas development. A TEDX analysis of chemicals used in oil and gas development in New Mexico found that approximately half of the chemicals can cause respiratory, skin, gastro-intestinal and/or liver problems, and approximately one third of the chemicals are harmful to nervous system, kidney and/or cardio vascular functions.
"We are seeing similar problems in Colorado," said Theo Colborn, President of TEDX, "Our biggest concern is that there are many products and chemicals in use that industry says are proprietary and for which the public has no information. The public deserves to know what chemicals they are living with."
Download a copy of the 2007 TEDX report on Chemicals Used in Oil and Natural Gas Development and Delivery in New Mexico.
For more information:
Other New Mexico Oil and Gas Toxics Pages
Related OGAP Web Pages