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Nitrate Contaminated Groundwater in Albuquerque's South Valley: Is Monitored Natural Attenuation an Appropriate Strategy?

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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1928/9222

Nitrate Contaminated Groundwater in Albuquerque's South Valley: Is Monitored Natural Attenuation an Appropriate Strategy?

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Title: Nitrate Contaminated Groundwater in Albuquerque's South Valley: Is Monitored Natural Attenuation an Appropriate Strategy?
Author: Keleher, Christina L.
Subject(s): Mountain View
Mesa del Sol
Tijeras Arroyo
Nitrate plume
Groundwater contamination
Environmental justice
Groundwater Protection Policy and Action Plan (GPPAP)
Superfund oversight
Abstract: Nitrate-contaminated groundwater in the South Valley of Albuquerque has been documented since the early 1960’s. Over the past four decades, nitrate concentrations have declined, but are still significantly greater than the groundwater standard of 10 mg/L. In 1980, a case of methemoglobinemia in an infant prompted the city to extend city water lines into the residential areas of Mountain View, where residents were previously dependent upon private domestic wells for drinking water. Although the nitrate-contaminated water no longer presents a human health threat to the residents of Mountain View, all groundwater in New Mexico that contains less than 10,000 mg/L total dissolved solids (TDS) is subject to New Mexico groundwater standards and should be considered a potential future drinking water source. The current groundwater gradient, which is heavily influenced by the pumping of City of Albuquerque wells, is drawing the nitrate plume eastward toward the future Mesa del Sol development. It may be argued that the nitrate plume is relatively stable and therefore monitored natural attenuation (MNA) is a more appropriate and less costly alternative than remediation of the nitrate. The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) uses a process of risk based decision making (RBDM) to evaluate the risks to human health and the environment posed by contamination from leaking petroleum storage tanks. In addition to a comprehensive review of the history of the nitrate-contaminated groundwater below Mountain View, and a review of government regulations pertaining to nitrate contamination of groundwater in NM, this professional project used a risk assessment procedure to determine whether the nitrate plume poses enough risk to future development to justify remediation. The risk assessment procedure considered groundwater flow as the principal contaminant transport mechanism, and identified the boundary of a proposed large residential community as the location of the most vulnerable population. An analytical contaminant transport calculation that included dispersion found that nitrate will exceed the federal drinking water and state groundwater standards at the boundary of this development. Based on these findings, it was concluded that the most prudent alternative, considering human health, is to remediate the contamination.
Date: 2009-04-26
Description: A Professional Project report submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Water Resources, Water Resources Program, University of New Mexico.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1928/9222

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