New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office recommendations for project proposals involving Wastewater Facilities

Domestic wastewater may have the potential for elevated concentrations of trace elements, nutrients, heavy metals, organic chemicals, antibiotics, oils, or other chemicals or sediments that can pose risks to the health of migratory birds and other wildlife. Common pollutants in domestic wastewater include personal care products, detergents, and pesticides, and these chemicals remain relatively unstudied in the environment. It is important to routinely investigate the pollutant content of any wastewater discharged to understand how it cycles and accumulates in the environment, and evaluate the threat it may pose to wildlife before deciding whether or not to proceed with or continue lagoon treatment.

Activities that create open lagoons, tanks, or evaporation ponds have the potential to contain wastewater with salts and brine, trace elements, nutrients, heavy metals, organic chemicals, petroleum, solvents, pesticides, antibiotics, veterinary chemicals, or pathogenic microorganisms which may pose a health risk to migratory birds and other wildlife. Migratory birds often do not distinguish between wastewater lagoons and natural waterbodies, and can be attracted to these open lagoons to drink, rest, and perhaps feed on any algae and invertebrates found there. If, for example, migratory birds came into contact with an oily petroleum sheen on the water's surface, it can be carried back on their feathers and feet to the nest, where contact with eggs might reduce hatchability. Therefore, if necessary, we recommend that open structures that contain toxic conditions be constructed with an appropriate exclusion methodology (e.g., nets, fences, enclosed tanks, hazing, etc.) to prevent migratory bird access or harm.