INTEL Plant in Rio Rancho, NM

INTEL Semiconductor Fabrication Plant in Rio Rancho, NM

Intel is the planet’s largest maker of computer chips, network processors, and flash memory. In 2012 its Rio Rancho plant used about 4 million gallons of water a day and returns 85% of that to the Rio Grande. Intel has been buying up agricultural water rights to offset the effects on the Rio Grande of its groundwater pumping. The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District argues that the water sought by Intel rightly belongs to irrigators.

Under its existing air pollution permit, Intel is allowed to discharge 96.5 tons a year of solvents, including volatile organic compounds, as well as acidic gases known as hazardous air pollutants (HAPs). The company is allowed to release 24 tons a year of 80 different HAPs, some highly toxic. Its facility has come under regulatory criticism for uncontrolled emissions when the assembly lines keep churning out chips while the incinerators are not working.

Intel is also allowed to emit 14.2 tons a year of particulate matter—specifically silica dust from burning the solvent hexamethyldisilazane in Durr thermal oxidizer incinerators. It has not yet been determined whether crystalline silica, which causes pulmonary fibrosis, is being emitted from the plant. In October 2010 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that the Intel’s Rio Rancho site did not comply with the Clean Air Act.

In January 2011 Intel sought to modify its air permit to include seven more solvent incinerators, ten more cooling towers, three ammonia treatment units, another natural gas-burning boiler, and a new “specialty solvent waste treatment system.” This permit modification was to “pre-position” the Rio Rancho site to be more attractive to corporate decision makers when the time was ripe for expansion investment.

However, in 2015 there are rumors of new layoffs in addition to the 400 person reduction that took place in 2013.




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