Air quality tests found spikes in formaldehyde and other pollutants associated with oil and gas development near homes in and around the Greater Chaco region in New Mexico, according to a report obtained by the New Mexico Political Report.
The tests were conducted by Navajo Nation volunteers under the guidance of the Environmental Health Project, a nonprofit public health organization, and the findings are consistent with those from other groups studying air quality in oil and gas communities across the country, according to the New Mexico Political Report. Pollution monitoring mandated by the Clean Air Act measures averages over a minimum of 24 hours, so dangerous spikes of formaldehyde can go undetected, according to Elizabeth Bisbey-Kuehn, the head of the New Mexico Environment Department’s Air Quality Bureau.
“Formaldehyde is probably one of the most carcinogenic chemicals in air that you can have,” Teresa Seamster, a Navajo Nation Counselor Chapter Health Committee member, said. “It’s definitely something you do not want in the environment, and we were getting it in the open air at levels that require mitigation.” The final report will likely remain unpublished until the coronavirus pandemic, which is ravaging the Navajo Nation, subsides.
News of spiking formaldehyde levels comes as the Bureau of Land Management moves forward with a series of virtual public input meetings on a controversial oil and gas drilling plan for the Greater Chaco Region, amid concerns that many tribal households lack sufficient internet access.