By Jessica Onsurez for the Current-Argus, NM
CARLSBAD – Carlsbad Soil and Water Conservation district said it is keeping its eye on a program in neighboring Lea County which could help reduce illegal dumping of contaminated water.
The Lea County Soil and Water Conservation District recently announced it would reward up to $1,000 to anyone who can help them catch companies dumping produced water illegally on county roads.
Produced water is a by-product of the extraction of oil and natural gas by the fracking process.
Illegal dumping activity is not unheard of in Eddy County, according to the Carlsbad Soil and Water Conservation District, who is observing Lea County’s initiate. However, the organization would not comment further on the issue, stating that it is a matter for the board of the Conservation District to discuss.
The Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department’s Oil Conservation District who has legal jurisdiction of the disposal and re-use of produced water said it encourgaes community involvement in trying to reduce the number of illegal dumping incidents.
In a statement officials from the OCD said: “The OCD has laws and regulations in place to govern disposal of produced water. If a company is not disposing of produced water according to the law and regulations they are illegally dumping. If the OCD receives information regarding illegal dumping we have the staff and will prosecute those responsible for illegal dumping.”
Permitting regarding the disposal, re-use and even transportation of produced water is strictly administered by the OCD. According to state statues, produced water should be disposed of in brine wells or stored in ponds and reprocessed and permits outlining that process. Any permits for the re-use of produced water are issued by the state engineer’s office.
Lea County has apparently seen a rise in the late night dumping which county officials fear can contaminate local water supplies according to recent news reports.
While the OCD may assess penalties and heavier actions against companies illegally dumping oil field waste water, it is also given power to compel companies to corrective action.
Reporter Jessica Onsurez may be reached at (575)491-4682.