Santa Fe’s Maxine S. Goad honored by Sierra Club

Maxine S. Goad - photo by Haeli Miceli

By Susan Martin, chapter political chair

Referred to as the “godmother of New Mexico’s groundwater” by Ron Curry, former Cabinet Secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department (and now EPA Region 6 administrator), Maxine S. Goad was instrumental in the development of the state’s groundwater-quality protection program, working first as a citizen advocate and then as a state employee to formulate the rules that are used today.

In June, the national Sierra Club announced it would award Maxine the Distinguished Service Award for her outstanding contribution to protecting New Mexico’s water quality.

New Mexico was the first state to adopt groundwater-protection regulations in the 1970s and was several years ahead of parallel federal efforts to protect groundwater. In the late 1970s and 1980s New Mexico’s program was a focus of attention from the Environmental Protection Agency and other states that were starting to develop their own groundwater-quality protection programs.

A longtime Sierra Club member and chapter donor, Maxine played a critical role in development of New Mexico’s program to protect water quality. She researched and wrote regulations, testified on their behalf, and helped convince commissioners, including Steve Reynolds (the state engineer from 1955 until 1990), to approve the state’s progressive program. The state engineer rules over the allocation of all waters in the state of New Mexico. Maxine was persuasive in promoting the program that recognized the importance of clean groundwater to the state’s agriculture, cities and businesses.

In the late 1980s, Maxine designed New Mexico’s original Wellhead Protection Programs required by the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act. She was also heavily involved in the oversight of uranium mining, where she oversaw studies that advanced the state’s understanding of the potential and actual impacts to water quality. In the early 1990s, Maxine was very involved in the development and negotiation of a mine-reclamation act for New Mexico. Maxine also served on the state’s Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) for eight years and helped shape important commission decisions regarding requirements to protect water quality at copper mines, dairies and other facilities that have potential to contaminate groundwater.

At one point, polluting interests attempted to oust Maxine from the WQCC, arguing that she was “tainted” by her bias toward protecting the quality of New Mexico’s water. Fellow members of the WQCC and other stakeholders representing such interests as mining and agriculture cited her reputation for technical expertise, excellence and integrity, and Maxine stayed a member of the panel.

Throughout her career with the state Environment Department, Maxine was the go-to person for information about the history of the state’s water-quality initiatives. She maintained meticulous records of hearings and other proceedings, recognizing the important role those records would play in future attempts to undermine the regulations. Maxine was also a primary author and co-author of several publications that were the guiding science regarding groundwater contamination at uranium mines.

Maxine understood the importance of alliances in strengthening environmental protection efforts and was one of the first members of the Communication Workers of America union affiliate at the New Mexico Environment Department.