My Career

Avanyu, the Native American plumed-serpent deity, guardian of springs and watercourses. Avanyu is a figure in Native American rock art "petroglyphs", paintings, and ancient and contemporary pottery.  This beautiful version of Avanyu was created by my employer, the New Mexico Environment Department, and aptly adorns various water-quality protection documents.  I worked in the Ground Water Quality Bureau for nearly 25 years, and then took a promotion into the Field Operations Division, to lead the Liquid Waste Program.  We issue permits for waste discharges, respond to chemical spills, investigate ground-water pollution, and oversee cleanups performed by the responsible persons.  We also perform regional surveillance, and special studies like testing for pharmaceutical residues in ambient water.

My work web page has some fabulous links to lots of free information, pictures, images, maps, reports, chemical data bases, and environmental web sites for kids.  Protecting ground water from contamination has long been my specialty, but my expertise is not limited to the subsurface.  Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC's) will soon be identified as the greatest health-threat from our ambient environment.  I presented a paper at the 2nd International Conference on Pharmaceuticals and Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals in Water, October 9-11, 2001 in Minneapolis.

Electromagnetic Induction "Terrain Conductivity" Geophysical Survey.  Here we are preparing to run a geophysical survey.  This method involves inducing electrical currents in the Earth and measuring their magnetic fields.  The greater the field, the greater the current.  Certain types of ground-water pollution conduct electricity better than uncontaminated ground water, so we use this geophysical method to prospect for and map plumes of ground-water pollution.

Drilling a Test Hole.  Here I am drilling a test boring at a site where chemicals had been illegally dumped.  Our investigation determined that both soil and ground water were contaminated with chlorinated solvents.  Both the company, and its owner, were convicted of criminal violations of the New Mexico Water Quality Act after a jury trial.

Encapsulation Suit.  Inside this plastic "space suit" you breathe from a tank of supplied air that creates a positive pressure inside the suit to keep out nasty chemicals.  This is Level A, the maximum, personal protection.

Bailing a sample from a monitoring well.  Water from this well was so contaminated that I had to wear a protective suit and breathe through an air-purifying respirator.   This is Level C personal protection.  The well was contaminated with gasoline and solvents from an illegal landfill.

Sampling a waste lagoon.  I used a dipper to collect a sample while my field partner monitored the air for toxic vapor.  We both wore chemical-resistant plastic booties so our field boots would not get contaminated.  This was a dump site used by "honey wagon" (vacuum truck) operators.  They were only supposed to haul septage, the material periodically pumped out of septic tanks but, as our sampling determined, chemical wastes also were being dumped here.

Sampling an abandoned tanker.  This tanker trailer was filled with PCB-laden waste oil, and abandoned on a county road in a residential/industial area.  I dipped a glass rod inside the tanker and put my thumb on the top opening to collect the sample.  The situation was resolved with an emergency Superfund removal action.  The oil was pumped out into 55 gallon drums.  The tanker was cut in half and taken to a hazardous waste disposal site along with the drums of oil.  We were never able to identify the perpetrator of this environmental crime.