Boiling Frogs-Intel vs. the Village

"Boiling Frogs - Intel vs. the Village" recounts the story of Intel Rio Rancho's impact on the air and water in the Village of Corrales from the mid-1980s to the present day. Updates to this ongoing saga will be posted here.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Thirsty Intel

As we enter the third year of extreme drought, inquiring minds must wonder driving by Intel’s massive factory “How much water are they using?” They might be surprised to hear – if they can find someone who will tell them –it’s approximately 3 billion gallons a year. That’s right – ‘Billion’ with a ‘B.’ This is not a fact that you will hear disclosed or discussed in any of our local media at any time. There is an effective blackout on this topic, such is Intel’s power over the media and the State of New Mexico. Intel has its very long straw deep into our declining aquifer – three 2,000 ft. wells drilled in the early 90s. At the time Intel claimed that its wells were drawing from a ‘different aquifer’ that was not connected to the aquifer from which the rest of the valley draws its water. Nonsense, replied hydrogeologists not on Intel’s payroll, all of the aquifer is interconnected. Intel needs super pure water for its process. It uses reverse osmosis which rejects two-thirds of the water it pumps. This mineral-laden and probably acid-laden water is discharged to the south valley treatment plant. I say ‘probably acid-laden’ because friends who live near the treatment plant report smelling the familiar ‘Intel smel.’ The solution to pollution is dilution. Many people believe that Intel is reinjecting water into the aquifer. This is not true. It was proposed at one time, but it is not feasible. What was feasible and was tragically rejected by Intel is a clean method to make chips that was developed at Los Alamos Labs in 2001. The new technology, called SCORR uses carbon dioxide at high temperature and pressure for photoresist removal that leaves the silicon wafer bone-dry and free of any dirt, eliminating the need to rinse with ultra-pure water and dry with alcohol. It’s a closed-loop system that all but eliminates the use of hazardous corrosives and the production of wastewater. It would reduce Intel’s water use by a factor of ten, to less than 10% of current usage. Intel did not welcome this breakthrough with open arms. Craig Taylor, the developer from LANL said he repeatedly called the Intel Rio Rancho site manager and his calls were not returned. Finally in 2005, Intel’s research director reported that Intel had actually tested SCORR: “We found good results, and sometimes equivalent results, but we didn’t find anything that was performance enhancing.” As if saving billions of gallons of water and eliminating toxic emissions is not ‘performance enhancing !