Arsenic standard exceeded in New Mexico utility’s water samples

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  • Sample Exceeds Standard: Recent tests by the New Mexico Environment Department show elevated arsenic levels in 1 out of 10 Camino Real Regional Utility Authority water samples.
  • Ongoing Violations: This adds to evidence of ongoing violations by Camino Real Regional Utility Authority, which was previously penalized for not meeting federal drinking water standards.
  • Further Investigation: The New Mexico Environment Department is investigating the Utility’s management of arsenic treatment systems and use of state funds.

April 1, 2024 — The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) conducted unannounced testing for arsenicOpens in a new tab. in Camino Real Regional Utility AuthorityOpens in a new tab.‘s (CRRUA) water system. The tests revealed that one sample collected from the Industrial Park area exceeded the federal limit for arsenic in drinking water. This is the latest development in a series of ongoing violations by CRRUA.

According to its website, CRRUAOpens in a new tab. is responsible for managing and maintaining the City of Sunland Park and Santa Teresa’s water and waste water systems. In February 2009, CRRUA was formed with approval from the State of New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration, State Board of Finance, and State and Federal funding agents.

Location Map
Locator map showing Dona Ana County in southern New MexicoOpens in a new tab.

NMED Fines CRRUA, Launches New Investigation.

In March 2024, NMED issued penalties of $251,580 to CRRUA for violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act and New Mexico Drinking Water Regulations. CRRUA has appealed the penalties, but NMED is prepared to defend its position. NMED has also launched a new investigation focused on CRRUA’s management of arsenic treatment systems. The department demands records related to sampling data, internal communications, and financial information. CRRUA has 21 days to comply or face potential sanctions.

Potential Health Risks and Resident Precautions.

Arsenic is a naturally occurring contaminant found in some water supplies. Long-term exposure can lead to various health problems, including skin issues, digestive problems, and even some cancers. Children are particularly susceptible due to their lower body weight.

Residents in areas served by CRRUA can take steps to minimize exposure to arsenic while the issue is resolved. Consumption of the tap water should be minimized, particularly for drinking and cooking. Adults and children can shower and bathe safely, as arsenic absorption through the skin is minimal at low levels. Washing dishes and clothes with low-arsenic water (below 0.5 mg/L) is also generally safe.

The NMED is also collaborating with the New Mexico Department of Justice and the Office of the State Auditor to investigate potential violations of consumer protection laws and misuse of state funds by CRRUA. CRRUA has reportedly received over $13.6 million in state grants and loans for water projects since 2012.

Residents with concerns about arsenic levels in their drinking water can contact the New Mexico Environment DepartmentOpens in a new tab. or visit the US Environmental Protection Agency’s website for more information on arsenic and its health effects.


Statue of Christ the King along I-10 at Sunland Park, New MexicoOpens in a new tab.. This statue was made by the sculptor Urbici Soler for the congregration of the San Jose del Rio Church at Smeltertown, New Mexico in 1939.  NOAA Photo Library.


Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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