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letters, opinions, editorials

re: filtering water is Bernalillo’s task

The April 1 Albuquerque Journal article, written by Rosalie Rayburn, "Town To Go Back to the Wells," suggests that an arsenic removal system developed by ARS USA and adopted two years ago by the town of Bernalillo is not performing consistently and has resulted in increased arsenic and aluminum hydroxide levels in town drinking water.

This is not a correct statement. The town of Bernalillo's water problems are not caused by the ARS system, but rather by a faulty filter system that operates further down the treatment path. We at ARS are concerned that the arsenic removal system we developed and is currently being used by the town is the target of malicious and false accusations.

The ARS system is the first stage of treatment in the town's drinking water that comes from two newer wells, Well 3 and Well 4. The arsenic treatment system is an electro-coagulation process that involves water running over electrically charged aluminum and graphite plates. The electro coagulation isolates the arsenic in a white sludge type material called "floc," which also consists of aluminum atoms that are shed when the water runs over the plates. The process allows for the removal of the arsenic through filtration.

This completes the ARS system's role in water cleanup and is only the first and single component in the treatment.

The next step, which is entirely the responsibility of the town of Bernalillo, involves filtering the water containing the floc through an anthracite/sand/gravel filter.

Until recently NCS, the company that designed and installed the original filtration equipment, dictated and operated, along with the town, the filtering portion of water treatment. Town administrators terminated the contract with NCS earlier this year, and it appears that they recently hired Wilson & Co. to oversee plant operations and prepare a corrective action plan.

The filtration is not provided by ARS, and no request has ever been made of ARS to provide the filtration. In fact, ARS has been denied access to the operation to determine or monitor the effectiveness of the filtration system that previously was provided by NCS.

When working properly, the second stage of the water treatment system—which is completely separate from the arsenic removal process—filters and eliminates various contaminants, including the floc. The remaining water goes into the drinking water system contaminant free.

However, because of a variety reasons too complicated to list here, the filtering system appears not to be functioning as designed.

We emphasize again that the responsibility of the final filtering process that rids the water of aluminum hydroxide and arsenic falls to the town of Bernalillo and its hired consultant, not ARS, whose technology is used only in the initial arsenic removal stage.

For most people reading this article, the arsenic removal process and filtering may seem like one and the same. However, they are two completely different processes.

Put simply, the ARS system works; the filtration system doesn't.

People in the town of Bernalillo and others continually refer to the ARS system of arsenic removal as "experimental" or "new." Neither is the case. It is a form of electro-coagulation, a technology that has been in existence for 100 years and has historically been used to treat water.

The primary difference with the ARS system and previous uses is that this is the first time that electro-coagulation has been applied to the removal of arsenic from drinking water.

It is important to note that the ARS arsenic removal system has been certified by the National Sanitation Foundation through the Environmental Protection Agency. The National Sanitation Foundation did a detailed analysis of a pilot ARS arsenic removal system in 2006 and gave its approval.

Bernalillo adopted the ARS arsenic treatment method to meet a new EPA standard of arsenic in water, which calls for the reduction of the Maximum Containment Level of arsenic from 50 parts per billion (ppb) to 10 ppb.

Arsenic is considered a threat to public health and is known to cause various forms of cancer. Many communities throughout the United States were forced to change their methods of arsenic removal as a result of the stricter revised arsenic standards.

We hope that this clarifies some of the issues surrounding the criticism of the ARS arsenic removal system and helps the community and town officials understand that the problem lies in the final filtering of the water, not the initial arsenic removal.

—Norbert Barcena, President of ARS-USA LLC


re: don’t be a litter bug

In the 1960s, there was a major nationwide campaign to stop littering, to discourage citizens in rural and urban areas from throwing trash on the ground. I was born into an era full of humans in love with tossing gum wrappers and beverage cans out car windows. I came of age in the era whose leaders tried to stop this thoughtless habit. Thanks to TV and radio, it wasn’t long before every citizen had seen the lone tear trickling down the face of Chief Iron Eyes Cody, and had heard over and over and had spoken the tag line, “Don’t be a litterbug.”

I have come to the end of six weeks of house-sitting here in Placitas. Once a day I took the dogs Pepper and Gracie for their separate walks down the steep embankment and across the wide dry wash, an arroyo that ran with water 600 or 1,000 years ago.

I am always looking for pottery shards and evidence of stone dwellings. What I found was a widely scattered, almost hidden debris field of faded and rusted beer cans, many with bullet holes in them. I also found 12 crumpled aluminum foil pie pans (real litter bugs eat quiche), 11 chunks of packing Styrofoam, 17 golf balls, 60 modern era beer cans, 1 faded decorative pillow, plastic bags flapping in the wind, and one bottle that once contained the liniment Absorbine Jr. I left behind one rusted truck gas tank, because it came off as yard sculpture. There was more, much more. In six weeks, I carried out the equivalent of 6 garbage bags full of trash.

I have to thank the litter bugs for allowing me to further hone my collection of epithets. I would also like to thank the litter bugs for the trip down memory lane. Based on can design and the way each can was opened, some of the beer cans were carelessly discarded forty or sixty years ago. Some were steel cans, some were aluminum, none of the oldies had the StaTab opening we use today, the invention that stopped tons of pull-tab litter. The steel cans were opened with a penetrating hawk bill can opener. The aluminum cans were the pop-top/pull-tab type, which created shiny debris collected by school kids, trash from which we made chains and necklaces.

(From the Internet)

  • First beer in metal cans: 1935
  • First aluminum beer can: 1958
  • First pop-top/pull-tab (Iron City): 1962
  • First ring top: 1965
  • First StaTab (Falls City): 1975

—Greg Leichner, Placitas


re: fix Immigration So It Works for New Mexico

Health care reform, economic stimulus, financial regulation, unemployment. With so many issues on the front burner in Washington, it’s easy to lose sight of immigration reform. But whether lawmakers are paying attention or not, the immigration system remains broken – and the unwelcome consequences affect everyone in New Mexico.

Consequence Number One: There are a very large number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. By some estimates, 11 million people. Most of them are working and contributing to the economy, but the fact that they are unauthorized makes a mockery of the rule of law. New Mexicans have always been welcoming to immigrants from our southern neighbor, perhaps because of heritage and cultural ties with native Hispanics. However welcoming we are, we would still like to see all people living in New Mexico counted, taxed, and in this country legally.

Consequence Number Two: The current system creates fear and divisiveness. Those who live here without proper authorization, even if the sole reason was to avoid starvation, must live in daily fear of being detected and arrested.  And their children, many who reside here legally, are fearful they will be separated from their parents. Employers who obey the letter of the law and check documents live with the fear that some of their employees may be here illegally with false documents, and they will suffer the loss of these trained employees or be characterized unfairly as intentionally hiring unauthorized immigrants. Some employers can not find the workers they need, and live with the fear that they will not be able to operate or compete. Hispanics are fearful that they may be overly scrutinized when being hired because of their ethnicity. And all New Mexicans are concerned about porous borders. Government policy should not create fear among law abiding people.

Consequence Number Three: the impact on the New Mexico economy – including a potential obstacle to economic recovery.

According to one New Mexico business owner, Shayne Franzoy of Hatch, it’s all but impossible to get enough labor for his farming operation. “Even with the unemployment numbers we’re seeing today, the truth is we still can’t find enough field workers. My goal is to always employ Americans first, but without immigrants, my business simply can’t survive during the busy harvest season.”

“I need a way to hire foreign workers legally. Without that, when the economy picks up, I may have to close my doors. And that will mean fewer opportunities for everyone, Americans and immigrants, in Hatch.”

 These and other immigration horror stories point to a system that just doesn’t work – for anyone in our state. It’s a system created for a different time, and one that must be modernized.

That’s why we, a broad array of New Mexico business leaders, are standing up together in support of comprehensive immigration reform. We represent a broad diversity of economic sectors in the state - white-collar, blue-collar and “green-collar.” But whether it’s outdoors in Southern New Mexico’s “chile capital of the world” or our high tech electronic plants in Albuquerque, the challenge is the same.

We all have a stake in fixing the immigration system because it’s holding back the state economy. As New Mexico approaches 9% unemployment and is seeing our economy in the worst shape it has been in for decades, we know we need to do everything possible to rev up this economy and put people back to work.

Many people assume that low-skilled immigrants take jobs from American workers. But actually the opposite is true.

Even in the downturn, higher-skilled New Mexico residents haven’t shown much interest in the low-skilled jobs many immigrants do. The experience of many employers is that few native born New Mexicans will actually take some of the more difficult or lower paying jobs. The New York Times recently profiled a town, where the unemployment rate was 11.2 percent. Native-born workers interviewed for the article said they would take minimum-wage or low-paying manufacturing jobs only as a last resort. And after six months of unemployment, many still had not done so.

If anything, many immigrant workers create jobs for Americans. Because immigrants are generally different from U.S. workers – sometimes less educated, sometimes more, often more willing to travel long distances for a short-term or seasonal job – the work they do generally complements and sustains employment for the native born.

According to testimony by Microsoft’s Bill Gates, every visa for a high-skilled immigrant is linked to creation of five additional jobs in the U.S. And according to agricultural economists, every farm job, many of which are filled by foreign workers, supports 3.5 non-farm jobs, which are typically filled by U.S. citizens. In other words, immigration is a job multiplier – the kind of job multiplier we desperately need to grow the economy and climb out of the recession.

What kind of immigration reform does New Mexico need from Washington? We endorse secure borders, more realistic immigration quotas and protection for employers who are trying to meet the demands of the law.

Bottom line: Congress must create a way for the foreign workers we need to keep New Mexico businesses open and growing to enter the country legally.

Our country’s vast unauthorized workforce, the environment of fear, the employers struggling to keep their businesses open and worrying about how to grow them as the economy picks up - the status quo is unacceptable.

In New Mexico, business leaders are standing up to demand change. We hope our leaders in Washington are listening.

—New Mexico Chile Association, Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce, NAWBO Public Policy Committee, New Mexico Restaurant Association, Dairy Producers of New Mexico & Association for Commerce and Industry


re: advancing New Mexico’s Water Policy

The history of water use in New Mexico is filled with bickering, litigation and strife that hinders economic growth. Today, water-rights owners face layers of confusing laws and restrictive regulations. Worse, new beneficial uses of water are not being granted because the state engineer’s office claims, without proof, that all of the water is already being used.

To properly serve the water needs of all New Mexicans and to end the water gridlock, the state engineer’s office must return to its original technical mission. Let me explain.

The state engineer’s office was established more than 100 years ago with a simple, technical mission. Manage irrigation water, measure water availability, review dam plans to ensure public safety, adjudicate the water rights to their owners and other technical functions.

Under the Richardson/Denish administration, the state engineer’s office has deviated from its original mission and has followed a social-planning agenda. The office has become unnecessarily litigious in an attempt to carve out new legal precedent.

Administrative agencies are not permitted to operate as law firms. That is the job of the attorney general. Over the years, the state engineer’s office has deliberately withheld technical information from the courts to promulgate their plans.

The result: the Lower Rio Grande adjudication has been slow to progress and the Middle Rio Grande adjudication has not even yet begun, though it was required 103 years ago.

Beginning in 1983, regional water plans were painstakingly negotiated with all stakeholders at the table, including Pueblo and acequia (local) irrigators. Yet, the present administration regards those water plans as merely advisory and runs roughshod over them to force their own agenda.  In short, the governor uses the state engineer’s office in ways that do not foster the free transfer of water rights in the marketplace.

These practices must stop. As Governor, I will end the culture of social planning in the state engineer’s office, reduce burdensome regulations and let the market determine the flow of water.Only the marketplace can efficiently allocate and transfer water rights to different owners and for diverse uses.

As Governor, I will take four simple actions with regard to water policy.

First, I will direct the state engineer’s office to return to its original mission.  As Governor, I will demand that the state engineer quantify the water he says is being used so that ignorance will no longer rule. Strict adherence to New Mexico water law and honest adjudication of all water rights will provide certainty of ownership and priority dates, requirements for sound water management and a functioning marketplace.  Complete adjudication will reduce conflict and future litigation that ties up our courts and prevents economic progress.

To further ensure that our state engineer’s office adheres to its mission and advances adjudication, I will implement a claims based, water-rights adjudication system, similar to those in Idaho and Montana, so that complete adjudication progresses swiftly and smoothly.

Second, I will fight for wise and practical water policies while respecting people's property rights.

Third, I will support efforts to conserve our water. For instance, I will support plans in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho to salvage San Juan Chama water and treated municipal wastewater.  I will use sound science to prevent needless evaporation from our old reservoirs.

Finally, I will be especially vigilant against ill-conceived water schemes, such as siphoning water into one community to the detriment of another. Our communities must live within their water means.

As the Spanish dicho proclaims, Agua es Vida, Water is Life. Indeed, water is the lifeblood of civilization around which land use, economic development, energy, food and community life all revolve. As Governor, I will ensure that our water policy allows for the lifeblood of our communities to flow.

For more information, visit www.turnerforgovernor.com.

 —Doug Turner, Republican  candidate for Governor


re: property tax increase

Every day I get angrier and angrier over the lies that were perpetrated on the people of Sandoval County regarding the 2009 election for levies on flood control.

We were told, the levy tax was $67.00 per $100,000 and we voted on this. Unbeknown to us, it turned out to be $115.00 per $100,000, which was an increase of 50%, doubling the amount of our taxes, and we only found this out, way after we voted on this bond. This bond was passed, supposedly, by a small margin. Since the people were misled and deceived, why were we not afforded the opportunity for another election? This would have been, the American Way! Well, let me see, could it possibly be, because they knew, that if we got the opportunity to vote on this bond again, it would have been turned down by a huge margin. Yes, I do believe so, and this why we are still getting the run around.

There was a petition circulated around with many, many signatures protesting the outrage of the people regarding the lies we were told and the high increase in taxes. What has become of these petitions?

I pay my taxes twice a year, as I am sure a lot of people do, and the second part of the taxes are due in April and the beginning of May of 2010. We are expected to pay the HIGH increase again, without any finalization of what is going on to satisfy the people.

Can someone tell me what is being done to appease us, the taxpayers, who, I will say again, were lied and deceived and as of now, we have not received any satisfaction over our outrage!

—Jane, Placitas

     

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