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New Mexico to crack down on Eddy County ‘man camps’ in violation of liquid waste laws

COURTESY IMAGE permian lodging
A rendering of a workforce housing facility proposed to be built in Loving.

The recent boom in oil and gas production in the Permian Basin in southeast New Mexico resulted in many workers opting to live in RV parks known as “man camps” which provide temporary housing as an alternative to a home in Carlsbad’s already difficult housing market.

But regulating the man camps can be a challenge for local government.

Eddy County Assistant Director of Community Services Steve McCroskey said the county is often strained in keeping with the man camps as they are built and opened frequently at an increasing rate.

In an effort to assist local government and inform the public, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) released a map of Eddy County man camps known to be in violation of liquid waste requirement, to better track and regulate the temporary housing units.

“This interactive map is a great tool for us both to use in tackling the challenge of liquid waste management in Eddy County,” McCroskey said.

“One of Eddy County’s biggest challenges has been to identify and keep pace as new RV parks continually pop up. Having the available resources to check for compliance and then enforce non-compliance is something the County and NMED both have struggled with in the past.”

More than 140 RV facilities in Eddy County were found in violation of state liquid waste requirements, which requires operators to properly install or operate sewage systems at the camps.

NMED issued notices of violation (NOVs) to many of the violators in 2018, with many of them remaining in “long-term noncompliance.”

Once an NOV is received, operators were required to contact NMED within five to 10 days to develop a compliance plan.

About 20 percent of the operators were working with NMED to reach compliance, read the release.

Aside from one RV park on U.S. Highway 285 north of Artesia, all the facilities reported in violation of state law were in the Carlsbad area of southern Eddy County.

Violations in Carlsbad ranged from sewage leaks, unverified permits and a lack of sewage treatment before it is disposed of.

Violations were reported south of Carlsbad, along the South Y junction of U.S. Highways 285 and 62/180, the main thoroughfare out of town and to the Permian Basin’s oilfields around Loving and Malaga, or further toward Pecos, Texas.

All liquid waste systems must be permitted and inspected by NMED.

Violations could result in civil penalty and fine of up to $100, or a petty misdemeanor charge and a fine of up to $500.

When sewage leaks do occur, public health and the environment are endangered by the pollution, read an NMED news release.

Aside from the sites identified in the online map, NMED also reported it identified numerous cases of illegal disposal of raw sewage in rural areas of Eddy County.

Operators of liquid systems were asked to call NMED for technical support as needed at the Department’s Carlsbad Field Office at 575-885-9023.

Reports of illegal dumping or non-compliant liquid systems can be made to NMED at 575-370-3200 or at Eddy County’s code enforcement page.

NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney said state laws related to liquid waste will be enforced, and the release of the map was intended to raise public awareness to the problem.

“Compliance with state laws that protect public health and the environment from raw sewage is not optional,” Kenney said.

“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.”

Man camps became controversial in Eddy County as the parks began appearing closer to residential areas such as La Huerta, where residents protested a proposed man camp.

The Eddy County Commission tabled a proposed ordinance to regulate the size and location of the camps.

Cody Northcutt, developer of the camp in La Huerta said any regulation enacted specifically against workforce housing was “government overreach,” during the September 2017 commission meeting where the regulation was tabled.

“If they come and try to zone the county, that’s the biggest fight they’ve ever had,” Northcutt said at the meeting. “If people want to not be around this stuff, they need to buy a buffer zone. They’re taking a risk with what goes on next door.”

Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, achedden@currentargus.com or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.

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©2019 the Carlsbad Current-Argus (Carlsbad, N.M.)

Visit the Carlsbad Current-Argus (Carlsbad, N.M.) at www.currentargus.com

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