- Associated Press - Sunday, December 8, 2019

CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) - Officials in southeastern New Mexico are struggling to monitor sewage problems from hundreds of camps used to house transient oil field workers.

State officials said more than 140 unregistered RV parks in Eddy County were violating liquid water requirements, typically linked to improper sewage lines, the Carlsbad Current-Argus reported this week.

The New Mexico Environmental Department said only about 20% of owners in those cases were working with authorities to comply with standards.

Eddy County planner Steve McCroskey says the problem has grown since a boom in oil and gas production in 2011 and 2012. The production has created a housing crisis in cities like Hobbs and Carlsbad.

“It’s a life safety issue. If you’ve got sewage out on the ground or you’re illegally disposing of it, E. coli, dysentery, everything else can take place,” McCroskey said.

He said his office has 350 open cases where property owners were accused of violating an ordinance governing hundreds of camps. Most of the violations center around liquid waste violations.

To respond to the growth in camps and violations, McCroskey said county personnel began working closely with the city of Carlsbad and New Mexico officials.

“Compliance with state laws that protect public health and the environment from raw sewage is not optional,” said state Environmental Secretary James Kenney. “In providing this map to the public, we hope to increase public health awareness and to encourage liquid waste system operators to come into compliance prior to our department taking legal action.”

Carlsbad is planning to increase its response and ensure property owners follow sewage regulations by hiring a third code enforcement officer to inspect properties.

City Administrator Mike Hernandez said the boom and population growth will likely continue, presenting a growing challenge to public health.

“We want everyone to be compliant,” Hernandez said. “There’s certainly a strong public health concern.”

Ron Myers, Carlsbad’s director of utilities, also fears more growth would mean a higher volume of sewage problems that the city must address.

“It’s a big challenge,” he said. “It’s a bigger challenge for everybody. There’s more (water) in collection, and more going to the treatment plant. We’re going to step up our game.”

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said this month that drilling in the United States is expected to drive global crude oil production through 2020.

The agency said most of the world’s production growth will come from outside the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC. That includes the Permian Basin straddling parts of New Mexico and West Texas.

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