New Mexico Geological Society Annual Spring Meeting — Abstracts

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Environmental Risk Communication and Engagement

Dennis McQuillan1 and Adria Bodour2

1High Desert Science, 3 S. Hijo de Dios, Santa Fe, NM, 87508, United States,
2U.S. Air Force, 2050 Wyoming Blvd. SE, Kirtland Air Force Base, NM, 87117

Effective stakeholder communication and engagement on environmental risks are important for the design and implementation of holistic efforts to protect public health. Complex sites can involve multiple contaminants, exposure pathways, receptors, regulatory jurisdictions, and differing limits for drinking water, groundwater, surface water, sediment, air, crops, livestock, fish, game animals, wildlife, and humans. A good example is the contaminant lead, which has at least 22 standards and guidelines in various media. Environmental practitioners must clearly explain the applicability of various limits, as well as how differences in sample collection, preparation, analysis, and reporting units can affect the interpretation of test results.

Practitioners must maintain scientific rigor while educating, and creating trust with, the public. Stakeholder engagement should include design of environmental investigations, analysis of risks identified, and selection of corrective actions. Public notice and comment periods for these activities are required by some regulatory programs. Practitioners can exceed these requirements by seeking broad community engagement that addresses local needs and involves citizens in environmental and public health monitoring.

Human-health and ecological risk assessments are often conducted to inform corrective actions at contamination sites. Comparative Risk Assessments (CRAs) are sometimes performed to estimate and compare the potential adverse health effects of multiple risk factors in a geographic area. A CRA for radiological risks in Santa Fe County, for example, could include naturally occurring radium and uranium in well water, indoor radon, tobacco smoking that greatly increases the risk of lung cancer from radon exposure, and transportation of radioactive waste from Los Alamos to Carlsbad. Practitioners and stakeholders should collaborate on holistic risk assessments and mitigation to reduce disease burdens.

Environmental Standards and Guidelines for Lead, Applicable in New Mexico

Water (mg/L)

- Drinking Water1

  • Goal


  • Action level

0.015 (total)

- Ground Water2

0.015 (dissolved)

- Surface Water3

  • Domestic water supply

0.015 (dissolved)

  • Aquatic life, acute

0.14 (dissolved)

  • Aquatic life, chronic

0.005 (dissolved)

  • Irrigation

5 (dissolved)

  • Livestock

0.1 (dissolved)

Sediment/Soil (mg/kg)

- Migration to Groundwater4


- Human Health, Residential4


- Human Health, Industrial4


- Flora5


- Invertebrates5


- Birds5


- Mammals5


- Hazardous Waste Characteristics (TCLP rule of 20)6


Air7 (ug/m3)

- Ambient Air


Food8 (mg/kg)

- Fruiting vegetables


- Cattle, pig and sheep meat


- Fish meat


Human Blood

- All Blood Levels9

Notification required

- Children’s Blood10 (ug/dL)


1 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Drinking Water Regulations.

2 N.M. Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC), Groundwater Standards (Section

3 N.M. WQCC, Standards for Interstate and Intrastate Surface Waters (Section

4 N.M. Environment Department, Risk Assessment Guidance for Site Investigations and Remediation.

5 U.S. EPA, Ecological Screening Levels for Lead.

6 U.S. EPA, Method 1311, Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) and 20X guidance. (Section 1.2) and (total constituent analysis instead of TCLP analysis)

7 U.S. EPA, National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

8 Codex Alimentarius Commission, International Food Standards, CXS 193-1995, General Standard for Contaminants and Toxins in Food and Feed.

9 N.M. Department of Health, Notifiable Diseases or Conditions in New Mexico, (Section

10 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Blood Lead Reference Value.

pp. 47-49

2021 New Mexico Geological Society Annual Spring Meeting
April 15-16, 2021, Virtual Meeting

Presentation Files

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