Morning Word

New Studies Show PFAS Contamination Across NM as EPA Sets Tougher Standards for Drinking Water

City of Santa Fe announces clean up initiatives

New study: NM urban areas increase PFAS in water

Two new studies from the US Geological Survey shows higher levels of PFAS, or forever chemicals, in New Mexico ground water and surface water in urban areas. Such synthetic chemicals, found in firefighting foams, non-stick cookware and fast-food packaging, can have adverse health impacts. The first study sampled 117 groundwater wells and 18 surface water sites across New Mexico between August 2020 and October 2021 and found PFAS in all major rivers of New Mexico, with the highest concentrations from sites downstream of urban areas. A follow-up study studied water quality in the Rio Grande as it flows through Albuquerque and found PFAS levels were as much as 10 times higher downstream from the urban area as they were upstream. “Our study highlights the complex nature of chemicals associated with urban areas and their impact on river systems,” USGS hydrologist Kimberly Beisner, lead author of the studies, says in a statement. “The data show that urban areas can be a major contributor of PFAS to rivers, with constantly changing concentrations due to wastewater discharge, stormwater runoff and other sources.”

The new studies of New Mexico’s PFAS levels come as the Environmental Protection Agency yesterday announced new tougher standards for PFAS in drinking water, a regulatory change expected to impact thousands of water systems across the country, according to reporting SFR published earlier this year. While recent testing showed no detectable PFAS in the municipal water system, testing has revealed contaminants in wells in La Cienega and La Cieneguilla, causing ongoing confusion and concern for residents.

SJC union efforts in limbo

A move by St. John’s College workers to unionize remains in a suspended state following the school’s failure to meet deadlines required to challenge that petition. Last December, 116 out of 170 students voted in favor of forming a union, but the school challenged that vote and filed its own petition requesting the National Labor Relations Board hold an election on the issue. The NLRB, however, dismissed that request on March 25 and says the college missed its 14-day deadline for such an election by 70 days. As such, the putative union remains in limbo until the NLRB makes a decision on charges of unfair labor practices that the St. John’s College student workers union filed against the college earlier this year. Upon dismissing the petition for an election, NLRB Regional Director Cornele A. Overstreet said he found further proceedings “unwarranted” due to the college failing to meet its 14-day deadline when responding to the union, citing an August 2023 NLRB ruling that created this deadline. Zane Kelly, a member of the St. John’s College SWC, says the union opposes an election at this point because of the administration’s response to the union’s request for recognition, including the allegations in the unfair labor practices the union filed against the college. “We asked for some sort of action to be taken back in December. We would’ve loved to have a vote before they started union busting; it would have been wonderful for us,” Kelly says. “It seems very clear to me that the school has violated the rules the government has set down for labor practices.”

House speaker testifies to Congress on early childhood

New Mexico Speaker of the House Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, testified yesterday to the United States Congress Joint Economic Committee—chaired by US Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM—about the state’s investments in early childhood. These investments include creating an Early Childhood Education and Care Department, and adopting a ballot measure in the 2022 election allocating nearly $150 million per year from the state’s Land Grant Permanent Fund—one of the largest educational endowments in the country— to early childhood education and care.  “For over a decade, a diverse coalition of community champions patiently and persistently built political will to do something big, bold, and significant on early childhood education in New Mexico,” Martínez told the committee. “Now, we are steadily rebuilding the village it takes to raise a child, so we can give all our kids the fair shot they deserve in life.” The Albuquerque Journal reports much of the discussion yesterday centered on partisan debates regarding the benefits of federal early childcare centers, with conservative Heritage Foundation Center for Education Policy Director Lindsey Burk arguing against such federal programs versus at least one parent staying at home with their children: “If the federal government is to continue funding a program like Head Start, at least allow those families to access their share of that $12,000 and take it to a provider of choice,” she said. “We have to be extremely careful to not preference center-based care over family-based care.”

Odds & ends

The Public Regulation Commission yesterday announced public hearings next week on a proposed grid modernization plan from PNM. The hearing will take place from 2 to 5 pm, Thursday, April 18 and comments can be made online via Zoom or in person at the Bokum Building, 142 W. Palace Ave.

The City of Santa Fe Office of Economic Development is seeking input on workforce issues as part of its participation in the Good Jobs, Great Cities initiative. The short survey, which assesses which types of workforce issues businesses and other organizations may be experiencing, is available through the end of the month here.

Mayor Alan Webber and other city leaders yesterday announced a series of beautification measures for the city, including Saturday’s Great American Cleanup, graffiti cleanup, pothole repair, shopping cart retrieval and more. As SFR reported yesterday, the mayor also has a new resolution aimed at barring people from sitting or standing on road medians. The beautification announcement follows previous tension between the mayor and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office over the city’s appearance.

Listen up

In his book A Quilt for David, author Steven Reigns tells the hidden history of Dr. David Acer, a Florida dentist accused in the 1980s of infecting his patients with AIDS, becoming a scapegoat for the homophobia and hysteria that accompanied the earlier days of the AIDS epidemic. Tonight’s 6 pm book event for Reigns at Collected Works Bookstore (202 Galisteo St.) will also feature a conversation between the author, a Los Angeles poet and educator, and Equality New Mexico Executive Director Marshall Martinez. The event will also be livestreamed via Zoom (register here) and is one of SFR’s picks of the week.

What a wonderful world

Two New Mexico spots appear on Best Life’s list of “16 secret spots in the US so stunning you won’t believe they’re real.” The Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness area lands at #9 and “offers some of the most unique miles of desert in the Four Corners region,” the story proclaims. The Blue Hole in Santa Rosa, #16, comes with recommendations from The Travel Fam blogger Beth McCarter who describes The Blue Hole as “a super deep, super chilly cenote in the middle of nowhere,” noting: “It’s kind of a drive to get to because there’s nothing else around, but we always hit it when we drive up to Santa Fe, New Mexico from Dallas.” Speaking of beautiful places in New Mexico, New Mexico Magazine shines the light on the Gila wilderness, with several stories in recent weeks as the Gila’s 100th anniversary approaches on June 3. Those stories include Sara Irving’s wonderful account of serving as a fire lookout on Mogollon Baldy for the last 42 summers. “The main job is to call in smoke reports, new fires,” Irving says. “A lot of the job is just watching. You’re watching specific to the job, but you’re also just watching light, clouds, storms, sunrises, sunsets, starlight, moonrises—all the beautiful sky things in the wilderness.” Journalist Elizabeth Miller reports on the Gila’s Pinyon Jay population, which continues to “flourish,” despite being in decline elsewhere.

For the bards

Poet Victoria Chang’s seventh collection With My Back to the World explores “feminism, art, depression and grief” and was inspired by artist Agnes Martin, who spent a significant portion of her life in Taos. Chang talks to Interview magazine about her process with the book, saying: “I just read everything I could and looked at everything I could, got really clear and beautiful colored plates of her work, read all the books, all the biographies. I saved the video of her talking and painting until the very end. I just wanted to have my imagination of what she was like and build that relationship with her. When I finally watched that film where she’s painting and talking at the same time, I remember bursting into tears.” (We’re not sure which video Chang is referencing, but here’s one in which Martin talks and paints.) Speaking of poetry, April, of course, is National Poetry Month and, as such, this week’s edition of SFR offers interviews with State Poet Laureate Lauren Camp and City of Santa Fe Poet Laureate Tommy Archuleta, both of whom have public events this week. Camp launches her latest collection In Old Sky with the Grand Canyon Conservancy Book Club Virtual Book on April 18; register online. Archuleta reads with Kathryne Lim at 4 pm Saturday, April 20 at Geronimo’s Books (3018 Cielo Court, Ste. D).

The heat is on

The National Weather Service forecasts a sunny day, with a high temperature near 68 degrees and southeast wind 10 to 15 mph becoming west in the afternoon. A fire watch goes into effect tomorrow, when NWS forecasts a high temperature near 76 degrees.

Thanks for reading! The Word has fallen down a rabbit hole reading about dark retreats and quiet travel. She returns Tuesday, April 16, following dental surgery. Send good (aka noiseless) thoughts.

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