New Mexico communities struggle to deliver water free of uranium

SANTA CRUZ — Eloy Jacquez lives in the house his parents built on Los Lujans Road in 1948. There was no water in Santa Cruz then. The family waited several more years before the first well was drilled just up the street, next to land used as an informal waste dump. Old cars were left to rust. Large shards of plastic and clothing are still embedded in the uneven dirt road. The tiny community in northern Santa Fe County wouldn’t learn until decades later that the water it had tapped 180 feet below ground was pulled from bedrock rich with uranium.

Jacquez, 67, said he grew up drinking from the tap and raised his eight children here, who did, too. They didn’t know about the risks. The state began sending letters to Santa Cruz in 2002, informing its 450 residents that there was a slew of dangerous contaminants in the drinking water at levels that exceeded state and federal limits. Among the pollutants was the naturally occurring uranium, a radioactive metal that can cause cancer and kidney failure. Eloy Jacquez, 67, lives down the road from the Santa Cruz well. He grew up drinking the water in Santa Cruz […]

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