Effects of Coal Burning in New Mexico on Air Quality and Surface Water Quality: Raton Study Area
The phenomenon known as “acid rain” has focused attention on the possible adverse effects on air and water quality that may be a consequence of the increased demand for electricity and concomitant increase in coal burning. Population migration to the “sunbelt” coupled with large, strippable coal supplies has the potential to put more demands on a limited water supply and decrease the quality of life that is enjoyed in the Southwest. In this study, we have attempted to evaluate local effects of a small, coal burning power plant in Raton, New Mexico, on air, precipitation, soil, and surface water. Much of the work has involved establishing the methodology for such an evaluation which should prove extremely useful in similar evaluations of the effects of much larger regional facilities. The presence of precipitation with pH values lower than predicted for rain influenced only by carbon dioxide has been established. The effects of the lower pH values are masked by the neutralization capacity of regional airborne particulates. The presence of fly ash in the air and precipitation has been verified. No adverse environmental effects were noted in the study area.